4/7 Today in Weird Music History: 1763. Double Bass virtuoso Domenico Carlo Maria Dragonetti was born on this date in Venice. A respected soloist and bassist throughout his life, it was a meeting in Vienna that would change the course of symphonic writing. Dragonetti’s meeting with Ludwig van Beethoven was indeed a game changer. As related by Thayer:
“Beethoven and he soon met and they were mutually pleased with each other. Many years afterwards Dragonetti related the following anecdote to Samuel Appleby, Esq., of Brighton, England: “Beethoven had been told that his new friend could execute violoncello music upon his huge instrument and one morning, when Dragonetti called at his room, he expressed the desire to hear a sonata. The contrabass was sent for, and the Sonata No. 2, Op. 5 was selected. Beethoven played his part, with his eyes immovably fixed upon his companion, and, in the finale, where the arpeggios occur, was so delighted and excited that at the close he sprang up and threw his arms around both player and instrument”. The unlucky contrabassists of orchestras had frequent occasions during the next few years to know that this new revelation of the powers and possibilities of their instrument to Beethoven was not forgotten.” (Life of Beethoven. p. 208).
So, while string bass players occasionally curse Beethoven for writing such challenging parts, they can also thank Dragonetti for opening up the realm of possibilities!