2020 Black History -George Bridgetower
George Bridgetower by Henry Edridge, 1790
George Bridgetower (1778 – 1860)
George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower was an Afro-European musician, born in 1778 in Biała Podlaska in Galicia, Poland, where his father worked for Hieronim Wincenty Radziwiłł.
George Bridgetower was a child prodigy, his debut performance in April 1789 was in Paris, France to rave reviews, when he was only nine or ten.
In that same year, accompanied by his father, he held concerts in London, Bath, and Brighton in England. The concert in Bath, attended by King George III, was described as “an exquisite performance.”
When he was about 11 in 1791, the Prince of Wales placed Bridgetower under his protection and appointed tutors for him.
Bridgetower was the First violinist in the Prince’s private orchestra for 14 years, Bridgetower also performed numerous concerts and became a famous and celebrated musician in his time.
It was during an 1802 concert tour of Europe that he made friends with Beethoven, who described Bridgetower as “an absolute master of his instrument.”
Bridgetower and Beethoven
Beethoven composed Kreutzer, the greatest Violin Sonata he’d ever written and dedicated it to Bridgetower.
Beethoven and Bridgetower were the first to perform the Sonata. When the performance began the first movement, Beethoven had written a huge run just for piano, spanning several octaves. It comes in a passage marked ‘to be repeated.’ In the repeat, after Beethoven executed the run, Bridgetower imitated it on the violin.
Beethoven looked up from the piano in astonishment, ran across the stage, embraced Bridgetower, ran back to the piano, and continued playing.
The performance was a triumph. At celebrations afterward, Beethoven announced he was dedicating the new Violin Sonata to Bridgetower. He wrote on the top of the title page of the manuscript: Sonata per uno mulaticco lunattico.
Later, there was a disagreement that causes Beethoven to demanded Bridgetower return the manuscript of the Sonata. Beethoven then dedicated it to Rudolphe Kreutzer, the violin virtuoso in Paris.
*Note: When Kreutzer received the manuscript in Paris, he looked at it and declared, “it impossible to play. Beethoven does not understand the violin,” and he never once performed it in public – the Sonata that today bears his name.
Bridgetower was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians in 1807. In 1811, Bridgetower earned the degree of Bachelor of Music at Cambridge University.
Little is known of his later years, and he died on February 29, 1860, in London. A portrait of Bridgetower is in the collection of the British Museum.
The above information is based on the following websites:
*Note: When Kreutzer received the manuscript in Paris, he looked at it and declared it impossible to play. Beethoven does not understand the violin, he said, and he never once performed it in public – the Sonata that today bears his name. https://www.classicfm.com/composers/beethoven/guides/key-people-beethovens-music-and-life-george-bridge/
Catherine Foster https://www.blackpast.org/author/fostercatherine/
Beethoven’s music and life of George Bridgetower
Darlene does not take credit for any of the information. The information was modified only for the purpose of this project.
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I am so enjoying your series on black musicians. This is an absolutely fabulous story. Thank you. wjz
On Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 2:20 AM Darlene J. Harris Speaker, Writer, Author, Coach wrote:
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Thank you Wilma, I’m glad you are enjoying the History Project. As I mentioned, it is overwhelming but well worth the effort.
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