In this video, violinist Randall Goosby and pianist Zhu Wang perform Beethoven’s Violin Sonata no.9. Though commonly known as the Kreutzer sonata, the piece was originally dedicated to violinist George Bridgetower, who gave the premiere performance of the work with Beethoven at the piano, in 1803.
George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower was born in Poland to a West Indian father (who claimed to be of African royalty) and an Eastern-European mother. Bridgetower’s father, John Frederick, was a servant of the Hungarian Prince Esterházy, the patron of Joseph Haydn. After being surrounded by music throughout his childhood, Bridgetower moved with his family to London at the age of 10, already a talented violinist. It was in England that Bridgetower caught the eye of the British Prince Regent, the future King George VI, who supported his musical education throughout his teenage years, facilitating his learning from players and professors at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Opera House. Bridgetower performed to great acclaim at various London venues and around the UK, before travelling abroad to mainland Europe.
In 1803, Bridgetower met Beethoven in Vienna. Beethoven was so impressed by the young violinist’s virtuosity that he composed his Violin Sonata no.9 for him, giving the piece its original dedication: Sonata mulattica composta per il mulatto Brischdauer, gran pazzo e compositore mulattico - roughly translated as ’Mixed-race sonata composed for the mixed-race Bridgetower, great madman and mixed-race composer’. With the work barely finished, the piece was premiered on 24 May 1803 at the unusually early time of eight o’clock in the morning, with Bridgetower sightreading the fiendishly difficult violin part. Bridgetower even had to read the second movement from the piano score, over the shoulder of Beethoven!
Shortly after the premiere, the duo had a falling out after Bridgewater insulted a female friend that was dear to Beethoven. The two never spoke again, and Beethoven re-dedicated the piece to Rudolphe Kreutzer. Despite his name being attached to the work, Kreutzer never performed the piece, stating it to be ’outrageously unintelligible’