George P. Bridgetower, a Black Polish musical prodigy


George Bridgetower
Date: 
Sun, 1778-10-11

The birth of George Polgreen Bridgetower in 1778 is celebrated on this date. He was an Black Polish classical violinist.

His father was an African prince who married a white European woman, Mary Ann Bridgetower. They had two sons who both became musicians. George's younger brother Fredrick was a cellist. George played in the Prince's band at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, for 14 years. During that time, he became a talented 9-year-old violin prodigy.

He is best remembered today for his association with Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven met the 23-year-old Bridgetower, and the two got along very well. The composer praised him as "a very capable virtuoso who has a complete command of his instrument." Beethoven wrote a new piece, the Kreutzer Sonata, for the Afro-European violinist. Beethoven's autographed copy of the Sonata for violin and piano bears the inscription, “Sonata mulattica composta per il mullato.” Bridgetower also played at a concert in Bath in the presence of King George III and a number of guests.

The account of the concert of December 3, 1789 was enthusiastic in its praise. "The amateurs of music in this city received on Saturday last at the New Rooms the highest treat imaginable from the exquisite performance of Master Bridgetower, whose taste and execution on the violin is equal, perhaps superior, to the best professor of the present or any former day. Those who had that happiness were enraptured with the astonishing abilities of this wonderful child — for he is but ten years old. He is a mulatto, the grandson, it is said, of an African Prince".

The Bath Morning Post of December 8, 1789 wrote: "The young African Prince, whose musical talents have been so much celebrated, had a more crowded and splendid concert on Sunday morning than has ever been known in this place. There were upwards of 550 persons present, and they were gratified by such skills on the violin as created general astonishment, as well as pleasure from the boy wonder. The father was in the gallery, and so affected by the applause bestowed on his son, that tears of pleasure and gratitude flowed in profusion."

Bridgetower died in London on February 29, 1860.

Reference:
The African American Desk Referenceu
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
ISBN 0-471-23924-0

To Become a Musician or Singer

Person / name: 

Bridgetower, George P.