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Thomas Martin - In Search of Bottesini (Part 3)

The procession, which included several bands, three members of Bottesini’s family, and an “enormous crowd of the general public, as well as a great number of friends and musical confreres who flocked from all parts of Italy”, reached the barrier which had been set up and the speeches began. There were speeches by the acting Mayor of Crema, the Director and the Deputy Director of the Conservatory, the Minister of Education, and a less-elevated man who was just a friend. His name was Guerchi and his speech said more than all the rhetoric of the others:

“I met the renowned Maestro Giovanni Bottesini, whose death means a great loss to the world of arts, on the day he arrived in Parma. I had heard a lot about him, but I could not possibly have anticipated the greatness of the man. At a friend’s request, I picked him up from the station. I arrived full of expectation, anxious and agitated while waiting for the train, I tried to imagine that famous man, whose name and illustriousness had been known to me for a long time. I recognized him the minute he stepped off the train for his eyes showed the sparkle of a genius.

“I approached him full of reverence and he smiled. That kind of honest smile revealed to me the inner strength of the man, and from that evening, I loved him as if I had always known him.

“So much fame together with such modesty is quite unusual. I truly felt that throughout his eventful life, in the midst of so much glory and pain, he has never known hatred.

“His soul was full of love and dominated by his art. He represented everything that was good and loved everybody; no rancor, no resentment, and no intemperence whatsoever.

“To the ‘wicked, this indescribable smile expressed forgiveness and pity. He was only with us for a few months yet everyone who came into contact with him regrets him today.

“Each time I was fortunate enough to see him, I bowed respectfully, yet not because of the halo of glory that surrounded him—fame only commands an obsequious respect—my reverence was a tribute to the man who was able to ally such virtuousness of spirit to the greatness of his name.
“He could have been incredibly rich, yet he died in poverty, giving everything to charity, leaving as his only inheritance to his disconsolate family the example of an irreproachable life and the sincere grief of the world at his death.

“One day, as he seemed exhausted, I begged him, ‘Maestro, don’t tire yourself out for heaven’s sake’. But he, pressing my hand, answered in a weakened voice, so full of deep resignation that it will forever remain on my memory:

‘Working, I forget!’ Poor man!—How he suffered! And the first time I saw him after he became ill, he looked at me with those loving eyes of his, he knew he was dying and he told me: ‘You see I am no longer working.’ I did not have the heart to protest; he could feel that the end was near.
“One day as he felt better, he wanted to get up; with our help, and with difficulty, he walked a little. He saw his instrument, his life long companion who shared all his triumphs; his eyes reflected a deep inner agitation; with difficulty, he stretched his emaciated hand forward to touch the strings. That was his last farewell.”