April 16th, 1846: Domenico Carlo Maria Dragonetti, composer and double bass player, (‘the first great virtuoso’), composer and friend of Haydn and Beethoven, died at his lodgings in Leicester Square in London aged 83. Dragonetti was born in Venice in 1763, the son of a barber.
Already at the age of thirteen, he was appointed principal player at the Opera Buffa in Venice and at fourteen became principal double bass player in the Grand Opera Seria at the San Benedetto theatre. In 1787, he graduated to the Capella of St. Mark’s at a salary of 25 ducats, which was raised to a princely 50 ducats after he had resisted repeated attempts by the Tsar to seduce him to St. Petersburg.
In 1794, a year’s leave to play at the King’s Theatre in London proved the beginning of a permanent transfer. For the double bass, he perfected what is now known as the ‘Dragonetti bow.’ Three of his double basses are extant: a famous one by Gasparo da Salò, which he acquired from the Benedictine Nuns of the Convent of San Pietro in Vicenza, is in the museum of St. Mark’s Basilica, another ‘The Giant’ is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the third is in The Royal Collection (Dragonetti bequeathed it to Prince Albert), at Windsor Castle.
Dragonetti also owned three violins made by Antonio Stradivarius one of which, now known as ‘the Dragonetti.’ was played by Paganini. He was buried in the Roman Catholic chapel of St. Mary at Moorfields in London. In 1889 his remains were moved to the Catholic cemetery at Wembley. His own music is not now much played, but there is a robust recording of his ‘Canadian’ Concerto by James Macmillan Pearson.