George Bridgetower

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George Bridgetower, unmarked watercolor, around 1800
Notice to a concert by Bridgetower with the title "Son to the african prince"

George Polgreen Bridgetower (aka Hieronimo Hyppolito de Augusto , born August 13, 1778 in Biała Podlaska near Brest , † February 29, 1860 in Peckham, London Borough of Southwark , London ) was an English violinist and composer of Afro-European descent.


Bridgetower was born on August 13, 1778 in Biała Podlaska and was baptized on October 11 of the same year in the local church of St. Anne . His original name was Hieronimo Hyppolito de Augusto, only later did his father use the surname Bridgetower. According to the baptism certificate, he comes from Ethiopia and served at the time of the birth of his son at the then 19-year-old Prince Hieronim Wincenty Radziwiłł (1759–1786) at the family castle in Biała Podlaska . According to other sources, he comes from Barbados and derived his later surname from the capital Bridgetown . From 1779 to 1785 the father Kammermohr of Prince Nikolaus I. Joseph Esterházy de Galantha was in Esterháza , where the boy enjoyed the lessons of Joseph Haydn . On April 13, 1789, he went public for the first time in Paris , where the notice announced him as follows: "Début de Mr. Georges Bridgetower, ne aux colonies anglaises, âgé de 9 ans." In November 1789, with a view to a concert in Bath , he is then referred to as the son of an African prince ("African Prince"). His father is described as an elegant figure and a very educated man, "who is one of the most accomplished men in Europe, conversing with fluency and charming address in its several languages."

In 1790 he moved to London and in 1795 became a member of the orchestra of Georg August Friedrich, Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV of Great Britain and Hanover . There he also met numerous important musicians. The concert he gave on June 2, 1790 together with the 9-year-old child prodigy Franz Clement turned out to be a highlight . Among the audience was the composer Georg Joseph Vogler , who reported:

"On Wednesday June 2nd I attended a concert here in Hannover Square, where two young heroes competed on the violin and managed to provide all lovers and art judges with the most pleasant entertainment for three hours. They could be heard alternately with concerts, and each one was always applauded warmly. The quartet, however, which was played by lots of young virtuosos who were less than 40 years old together, surpassed all the expectations that the greatest aged virtuoso could ever satisfy through the merit of a fine, humorous, humorous, and at the same time unified performance. Clement from Vienna played the first violin for eight and a half years, the second Bridgetower from Africa [!] Ten years old. "

On June 14, 1790, Bridgetower also entered Clement's stud book. He also played a violin concerto by Giovanni Battista Viotti on May 28, 1792 , accompanied by his teacher Joseph Haydn on the piano. In 1802 he was granted a longer vacation, which he used for a longer trip, which initially took him to Dresden , where his mother was living at the time. There he gave a concert on July 24, 1802 in the Bohemian Hall and on March 18, 1803 in another concert. He then traveled to the Bohemian health resorts of Teplitz and Karlsbad . In Dresden he became a member of the Masonic lodge Zum golden Apfel .

He arrived in Vienna on April 16 and immediately attracted a great deal of attention, including Prince Joseph Lobkowitz . In this way he got to know Beethoven and asked him for a work of his own. Beethoven then composed the Violin Sonata in A major op.47 for Bridgetower . The premiere took place on May 24, 1803 with Beethoven at the piano in a concert in Vienna's Augarten . The Viennese correspondent for the magazine Der Freimüthige commented on the concert:

"H. Bridgetower, in the service of the Prince of Valais, had a full house, and he is really a very strong violinist who overcomes great difficulties with fortunate boldness and ease. Only the composition of the concerto itself, also by H. Bridgetower [!], Was garish, and the striving for peculiarity and originality was carried out as far as possible: a fashion that threatens to become general even though the example of several great masters , but will never satisfy the impartial listener. "

However, Beethoven dedicated the first edition to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer . The background to this reallocation is unclear. A friend of Bridgetower said later that there had been a quarrel between the violinist and Beethoven over a "girl". It is more likely that Beethoven actually hoped for a performance by Kreutzer, especially since he was planning a trip to Paris around 1804/05 . The plan did not come to fruition, however, and Kreutzer allegedly never played the work.

In later years he rarely performed. Most recently he lived in the London suburb of Peckham (8, Norfolk Street) and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery .


Bridgetower's mother Maria Anna Ursula Bridgetower geb. Schmidt (1762–1807) was German and last lived in Bautzen , where she died on September 17, 1807. She had a younger son, Friedrich Joseph Bridgetower, who lived in London as a cellist and is said to have died in Ireland .


Bridgetower drew up a will on September 10, 1859, in which he made a sister of his late wife, nee Drake, the sole heir. She had the estate sold on June 30, 1860 by the auction company Puttick & Simpson. According to a friend and administrator of the estate, Samuel Appleby, the sale made less than £ 1,000 . Appleby himself acquired parts of the estate that were later used by Alexander Wheelock Thayer for his Beethoven biography. Among them was an album that was sold at Sotheby’s in 2003 . It contained 75 autographs, including concert programs, letters from patrons, friends and musicians as well as Bridgetower's passport, issued on July 20, 1803 by the British Embassy in Vienna.


Biographical literature
  • Charlotte Papendiek , Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte: Being the Journals of Mrs Papendiek, Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to Her Majesty , edited by her grand-daughter, Mrs Vernon Delves Broughton, Volume 2, London 1887, Pp. 134–141, 145, 153–155, 177–179 ( digitized version )
  • Frederick George Edwards, George P. Bridgetower and the Kreutzer sonata. In: The Musical Times , Vol. 49 (1908), pp. 302-308
  • Hans Volkmann , Beethoven in his relations with Dresden , Dresden 1942, pp. 149–153
  • Betty Matthews, George Polgreen Bridgetower. In: The Music Review , Vol. 29 (1968), February, pp. 22-26
  • Josephine RB Wright, George Polgreen Bridgetower: An African Prodigy in England 1789–99. In: Musical Quarterly , vol. 66 (1980), pp. 65–82 (with documents from the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle)
  • Betty Matthews, George Bridgetower. In: The Musical Times , Vol. 122 (1981), p. 85
  • Dominique-René de Lerma, George Polgreen Bridgetower. In: Black Music Research Journal , Vol. 10, No. 2 (Fall 1990) (with a list of Bridgetower's compositions)
  • Samuel Wesley , The Letters of Samuel Wesley: Professional and Social Correspondence, 1797–1837 , ed. by Philip Olleson, New York 2001 (digitized version )
  • Clifford D. Panton, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, Violin Virtuoso and Composer of Color in Late 18th Century Europe , Lewiston, New York, 2005
  • Peter Martin, George AP Bridgetower: "Beethoven's violinist". In: Unknown Biographies. Africans in German-speaking countries from the 18th century to the end of the Second World War , ed. by Ulrich van der Heyden , Werder an der Havel 2008, pp. 40–48
  • Klaus Martin Kopitz , The early Viennese performances of Beethoven's chamber music in contemporary documents (1797–1828). In: Beethoven's Chamber Music , ed. by Friedrich Geiger and Martina Sichardt (=  Das Beethoven-Handbuch , edited by Albrecht Riethmüller , Volume 3), Laaber 2014, pp. 165–211
  • William Hart, New light on George Bridgtower. In: The Musical Times , Vol. 158, No. 1940 (Autumn 2017), pp. 95-106
  • Dieter Kühn , Beethoven and the black violinist , Frankfurt am Main 1990 (novel)
  • Francee Greer Williams, The Abyssinian Prince: The True Life Story of George Polgreen Bridgetower , Lincoln, Nebraska 2001 (digitized)
  • Rita Dove , Sonata mulattica. A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play , New York 2009 (cycle of poems)

Web links

Commons : George Bridgetower  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Horst Walter, Haydn's pupil. In: Joseph Haydn in his time , Eisenstadt 1982, p. 313
  2. ^ The Bath Journal , December 7, 1789
  3. ^ Extract from a letter from Abbot Vogler from London. June 6, 1790. In: Musikalische Korrespondenz der Teutschen Filarmonische Gesellschaft , vol. 1, no. 1 of July 7, 1790, column 3 (digitized version)
  4. ^ Vienna, Austrian National Library , Ser. n. 308, fol. 33v
  5. Der Freimüthige , Berlin, vol. 1, no. 121 of August 1, 1803, p. 484. Since Bridgetower did not compose any major works, Beethoven's Violin Sonata op. 47 is certainly meant.
  6. Klaus Martin Kopitz , Rainer Cadenbach (Ed.) U. a .: Beethoven from the point of view of his contemporaries in diaries, letters, poems and memories. Volume 1: Adamberger - Kuffner. Edited by the Beethoven Research Center at the Berlin University of the Arts. Henle, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-87328-120-2 , pp. 127f.
  7. Ibid., Volume 2, p. 1010 (based on statements by Louis Baron de Trémont)
  8. Ibid., Volume 1, p. 127
  9. ↑ List of estates from the Puttick & Simpson auction catalog
  10. Cf. Alexander Wheelock Thayer, Ludwig van Beethovens Leben , edited by Hermann Deiters and Hugo Riemann , Volume 2, 3rd edition, Leipzig 1922, pp. 389–398
  11. ^ Sotheby's, London, catalog of the auction of December 5, 2003, Music including important Autographs by Beethoven and Wagner , p. 38f., No. 36