George Polgreen Bridgetower: An African Prodigy in England 1789-1860.
An outstanding violinist. Best known for his association with Ludwig van Beethoven, who wrote the piece Kreutzer Sonata just for him to play in 1803 (the full title was Sonata composed for the Mulatto). The composer praised him as “a very capable virtuoso who has a complete command of his instrument”.
He was born in Poland to a West Indian father and German mother.
He moved to London at an early age and was performing in theaters by the age of ten. The scope of Bridgetower's career in Europe becomes apparent when one sees what was written about him in late eighteenth-century English, French, and Austro-German newspapers, memoirs, and journals. By the age of twelve he was recognised by London's musical intelligentsia as a respected member of its artistic community. By 1799, he performed in approximately fifty publicised concerts as a soloist or a principal musician.
How did Bridgetower overcome some of the obvious racial barriers of his day?
(1) He had an entreprenurial father who brought his son to the attention of the English aristocracy;
(2) He was so skilful that he gained the unwavering financial support of that aristocracy;
(3) For his day he had an above average education - a factor that often facilitated the rise up the social ladder in Georgian England; and
(4) He won the support and friendship of George, Prince of Wales, later George IV of England.
Bridgetower eventually fell out with Beethoven over the snub of a mutual female friend, he obviously deserves much more attention for the contributions he made to Classical music performance.