George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower: Beethoven’s “African Prince” and His Contribution to the Nineteenth-Century Classical Music Canon
Cherry, Nicole E
MetadataShow full item record
George Augustus Bridgetower (1778-1860) was a skilled and well connected African-European violinist in early nineteenth-century Europe. Befriended by many esteemed pioneers of the music world, Bridgetower was the original dedicatee of the Sonata for Piano and Violin Op.47 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). As the first interpreter of the piece and a close friend of Beethoven's, Bridgetower may have assisted with the composition of the work. Beethoven notes in his diary that Bridgetower changed and improved some parts of the sonata. Audiences and critics of the day admired this prodigy. The fact that he was considered a "noble moor," a royal possession, was further proof of his eminence. In investigating the role of Bridgetower's ethnicity, this document reviews Bridgetower's friendship with Beethoven through a contextual reassessment of his career. Placing his musical engagements and known professional activities within socio-cultural and artistic spectrums establishes his role in the contemporary evolution of classical music. This exploration of his life as a performer, composer, and his relationships with contemporary artists, as seen through their correspondence and other primary source materials, examines his relationship with the culture of his time. While being a bi-racial man may have marked him as Other, it was also his talent as both performer and composer that rendered him capable of befriending and collaborating with Beethoven.