When musicians hear the name Botessini, they immediately think of Italian Giovanni Botessini (1821-1874), otherwise dubbed “the Paganini” of the double bass. According to AllMusic, he was “one of the foremost virtuoso double bass players in history and a major contributor to the development of the technique of that instrument”. (http://www.allmusic.com)
But it was his father, Pietro (1792 – 1874), who wrote the beautiful Introduzione, Theme & Variations when Giovanni was but 10 years old (1831). This is a highly recommended chamber piece, with cantabile bel canto melodies for both flute and clarinet. The string quartet forms a backup, but there is plenty of action there once the variations get under way! Available from Edition Silvertrust (http://www.editionsilvertrust.com/botessini-p).
Performed by us in the Blue Mountains, at the charming Wentworth Falls School of Arts, on 25.11.2018.
Not many classical composers are known for their religious inclinations, including any general awareness of Prokofiev’s penchant for Christian Science: A vaguely Protestant, cultish religion developed in the USA by Mary Baker Eddy and her published text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875). His diary indicates that from about 1924 both Prokofiev and his wife Lina followed Christian Science principles, particularly the tenet that sickness was an illusion. Meditation around this tenet had a calming effect.
But, did it affect his music? Sources claim that it did. He heavily condemned his own opera The Fiery Angel for its moral heresy, for example, and subsequently wrote mainly of characters with high moral virtues and a spiritual attitude.
Fortunately all his confusion between spiritual urges and sensual text occurred well after the creation of Overture on Hebrew Themes (1919) in New York. That many (reform-progressive) Jews promoted Christian Science in the late 19th century, suggests the Overture never provoked spiritual condemnation from its composer,
Prokofiev left America in 1920 for life in Paris (and later a short stay in Bavaria, where he wrote the “heretical” Fiery Angel). He returned permanently to Russia in 1936.
As for Christian Science, he remained convinced of the faith for the rest of his life.
Journal of Religion and Society, Vol 15 (2013). Rolf Swensen, “Israel’s Return to Zion” – Jewish Christian Scientists in the United States, 1880 – 1925.
Bathtub Bulletin (July 19, 2017). Mike Zonta. Prokofiev the Christian Scientist (Search-for-emes.blogspot.com). Accessed 10.1.2018.
Wikipedia. Sergei Prokofiev. Accessed 10.1.2018
Wikipedia. Overture on Hebrew Themes. Accessed 10.1.2018
The Russian émigré ensemble Zimro approached Serge Prokofiev (1891-1953) during his USA period with a commission and a book of Jewish folk tunes for guidance! The result was a charming sextet with Klezmer influences: Overture on Hebrew Themes opus 34 (1919), for clarinet, piano and string quartet. It was premiered in New York City in 1920, with Prokofiev as guest pianist. The Overture was later grudgingly transcribed for chamber orchestra (1934): “I don’t understand what sort of obtuse people could have found it necessary to reorchestrate….”