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Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonate für Klavier und Violine (A-Dur) op. 47, 1. Satz, Partitur, Autograph

Beethoven-Haus Bonn, NE 86

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"Sonata mulattica" - violin sonata for a coloured person

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the concert scene was marked by a very pronounced "star cult". Alongside the great singers, celebrated virtuosos especially included pianists and violinists. Beethoven dedicated his Sonata op. 47 to one of the greatest, the violinist Rudolph Kreutzer. Ever since the sonata has borne the name "Kreutzer-Sonata". Most people are, however, not aware of the fact that Beethoven originally wrote the famous sonata for another virtuoso, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1779-1860). Bridgetower caused a stir not least because of his appearance: he was the son of a coloured man (his father was from the West Indies or Africa) and a European woman (the nationality of his mother is not known with any certainty, possibilities include German, Austrian or Polish). In concert programmes he was therefore now and then marketed as being the "son of an African lord". It would be wrong to say that Bridgetower's success was merely a result of his exotic appearance. He was indeed one of the most celebrated violinists of his time. Beethoven greatly admired Bridgetower and wrote the following to Baron Alexander Wetzlar von Plankenstern in a letter of 18 May 1803, "a very able virtuoso and an absolute master of his instrument - He not only performs his own concertos but is also an excellent quartet player" (from the translation by Emily Anderson, 1961). Not least due to Bridgetower's musical prowess, Beethoven gave a concert with him on 24 May 1803, in which the Sonata op. 47 was given its first performance. Even in the nineteenth century Bridgetower was said to have possessed an autograph score of this sonata with a dedication by Beethoven. For a long time this was not, however, known. The autograph score shown here only surfaced at an auction in 1965 when it was acquired by the Beethoven-Haus. However, it only contains the exposition of the first movement and even this is not in the final version dedicated to Kreutzer. At the top of the first page of music, you can see the dedication "Sonata mulattica Composta per il Mulatto Brischdauer gran pazzo e compositore mulattico". But why did Beethoven not keep this dedication? Why did he finally dedicate the revised sonata to another violinist? The important Beethoven biography by Thayer, Deiters and Riemann of 1907 reports that Beethoven and Bridgetower had had a disagreement "about a girl", although this information is accompanied by a question mark. (J.R.)

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