Sonata per uno mulaticco lunattico
March 27, 2009 6:44 AM   Subscribe

Beethoven's Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 9 in A, Op. 47 (audio) was originally dedicated to the black violin virtuoso George Bridgetower after he gave such a brilliant rendering of the piece that prompted Beethoven to jump from his seat and embrace him. Bridgetower was a musical child prodigy and composer who, despite rampant racial prejudice, reached "unusual heights in the music world of his day". Having lived and performed in major European cities such as London, Paris, and Vienna, he would later die forgotten and in poverty. A personal disagreement with Bridgetower led Beethoven to dedicate the sonata to the famous violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer instead who, incidentally, never played it in public deeming it “outrageously unintelligible”.

For the object fetishists: a tuning fork given by Beethoven to Bridgetower is on show at the British Library.
posted by lucia__is__dada (10 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Wow! I didn't know this. What a cool tidbit.
posted by nosila at 8:04 AM on March 27, 2009

Fascinating stuff, thanks for the post!

In case anyone else is curious about the argument that deprived him of the fame of a "Bridgetower Sonata," it apparently "resulted from an obscene comment Bridgetower made regarding a woman."
posted by languagehat at 8:07 AM on March 27, 2009

Sonata per uno mulaticco lunattico

Does that mean what I think it means?
posted by minkll at 8:08 AM on March 27, 2009


The Art of Time Ensemble here in Toronto just had a brilliant cross-disciplinary show based on the Kreutzer. The first act was a staged reading of a monologized version of Tolstoy's eponymous short story, and the second act was James Kudelka's Fifteen Heterosexual Duets (which is set to the Kreutzer)performed by Coleman Lemieux. It was an amazing night.

Apparently they're remounting it next season so keep your eyes open, Toronto MeFites.
posted by sixswitch at 8:09 AM on March 27, 2009

Wow! What a fantastic story! I has no idea Kreuzer had never performed it in public. I was just listening to it last week (along with these insanely great string quartets) from the European Internet archives; sorry I can't post the link, it was here on the blue March 9th. "Downloads in all Major."
posted by From Bklyn at 10:12 AM on March 27, 2009

Over here
posted by Gyan at 10:21 AM on March 27, 2009

By the way that one portrait of Bridgetower, used everywhere, is on exhibition right now at the Prints gallery at the British Museum- some special exhibit about drawings of celebrities. Strangely, he is in a section titled something like "Odd and Interesting People" alongside a portrait of the Chevalier D'Eon!
posted by vacapinta at 11:18 AM on March 27, 2009

I had never heard this story before. Thanks, lucia__is__dada.
posted by homunculus at 1:04 PM on March 27, 2009

Thanks Gyan, that's the one. (Er, yes, and your post which has offered great rewards ThankYouVeryMuch). The version I was listening to is here. I like it immensely.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:05 PM on March 27, 2009

Poet's Muse: A footnote to Beethoven

(on the NYT yesterday)
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:02 AM on April 3, 2009

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