George Polgreen Bridgetower

George Polgreen Bridgetower
George Polgreen Bridgetower

George Polgreen Bridgetower was a talented  African violin Prodigy.  Bridgetower was born in Biala, Poland on February 29, 1780.  He was one of the most celebrated black musicians in Europe during the eighteenth and early nineteenth Century.

His father, the African Prince, was married to a German woman who is named in English documents as Mary Ann Bridgetown. They had two sons, who both became fine musicians. The younger brother, “Fredrick; ” was a cellist.

In 1789 An African Prince of the name Bridgetower came to Windsor with a view of introducing his son, a most possessing lad of ten years old, and a fine violin player.

“He was commanded by their Majesties to perform at the Lodge, where he played a concerto of Viotti’s and a quartet of Haydn’s, whose pupil he was; both father and son pleased greatly. Noted for his talent and modest bearing, the other for his fascinating manner, elegance, expertness in all languages, beauty of person, and taste in dress. He seemed to win the good opinion of every one, and was courted by all.”

From: – Court and Private Life in the Times of Queen Charlotte,
Being the Journals of Mrs. Papendiek assistant keeper of the wardrobe and reader to Her Majesty ( vol.4)

George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetown. prodigy of the violin, patronized and into the musical establishment of the Prince of Wales at Brighton when he was just ten.In 1802 Bridgetower went to Europe where he was introduced to Beethoven in Vienna, by Prince Lichnowsky (the same Lichnowsky for whom the Pathetique Sonata for Piano is dedicated.)

George played in the Prince’s band at the Royal Pavilion Brighton for 14 years.He is best remembered today for his association with Ludwig van Beethoven who wrote Violin Sonata number 9 for the Afro-European violinist in 1803.

The title folio of Beethoven’s autographed copy of the Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op.47, bears the inscription, “Sonata mulattica composta per il mulatto Brischdauer” reproduction in Joseph Schmidt-Gorg and Hans Schmidt. eds., Ludwig van Beethoven [New York, 1970] p. 140).

Beethoven and George Bridgetower first performed this work in Vienna at the Augarten on May 24, 1803. (The Musical Quarterly vol.,LXVI)Ludwig van Beethoven, played in the houses of the nobility, in rivalry with other pianists, and performed in public with such visiting virtuosos as violinist George Bridgetower.

Bridgetower married Mary Leech (Leeke) in 1816. He continued his musical career, including teaching and performing. on 4 October 1807, he was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians and attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge where he earned the degree of Bachelor of Music in June 1811.

He performed with the Royal Philharmonic Society orchestra. He later travelled abroad, particularly to Italy, often visiting his daughter, who live there. He died in Peckham in south London, leaving his estate of £1,000 to his deceased wife’s sister. His remains are deposited in Kensal Green Cemetery.

Related Links

The British Library – George Polgreen Bridgetower

Kensal Green Cemetary

BL UK – George Polgreen Bridgetower

Mulatto Diaries – Black Polish virtuoso

2 thoughts on “George Polgreen Bridgetower

  • 20th December 2014 at 12:12 am

    Is there any archival evidence of Fredrick Bridgetower, the younger brother of George Bridgetower having lived in Liverpool, UK? Please advise. Thank you.

    • 29th January 2015 at 10:49 am

      Timothy, I have been trying to find him as well. I have found a variety of different newspaper articles that list a family connection to George and Frederick Bridgetower. However, I have also found a Frederick Bridgetower in Newry County Down, Northern Ireland who was also a musician (One article mentions Northern Ireland). I’m trying to piece together the evidence, I need to search out more official sources and not the gossip of the newspaper articles.


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