Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rachel Barton Pine: Beethoven's 'Kreutzer Sonata' Was First Dedicated to a Black Violinist

[George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860); Copyright: The British Museum]

Rachel Barton Pine talks about the Beethoven and Clement violin concertos
Published: Sep. 9, 2008 at 8:34 PM
Last modified: Sep. 10, 2008 at 3:33 PM
Laurie Niles:
“Just a few months ago, Rachel Barton Pine talked with us about life as a touring musician, Maud Powell, and funky fiddles like the rebec. Since then she's been touring and teaching, and she even offered up her own version of Cowboys from Hell for the metal-heads among us. ;-) Today Rachel releases her new album, featuring the Beethoven and Clement concertos for violin. Here she fills us in on the very well-known Beethoven, the lesser-known Clement, and the relationship between the two. (By the way, we'll be having a little contest to give away Rachel's CD next week, so stay tuned! :)”

Rachel Barton Pine:
“For another example, look at Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata. In fact, the Kreutzer was premiered by George Bridgetower, together with Beethoven. The original dedication actually was to Bridgetower. In my Black music research, I've read everything there is to read about Bridgetower, for whom the sonata was actually written. It really should be the Bridgetower Sonata; Kreutzer never even played the thing! But Beethoven ultimately withdrew the dedication to Bridgetower and slapped Kreutzer's name on the Sonata No. 9, and now we don't even remember that Bridgetower existed.

“If you read the old accounts from, for example, ladies' diaries, members of the aristocracy who used to go to his concerts when Bridgetower was a young artist, they all talk about what an amazing technician Bridgetower was, and how much intensity there was in his playing. This is exactly what you hear in the Kreutzer Sonata. If you read accounts about Clement's playing, they talk about his refinement and delicacy. This is exactly what you hear in Beethoven's concerto.” [Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma's scholarly article on the life and music of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860) is found at]

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