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Bridgetower And The "kreutzer Sonata" 9
Praupner in Vienna confirmed me in my opinion of the excellence of his conducting. Since then I have often met Beethoven at concerts. His piquant conceits modified the gloominess, I might say the lugubriousness, of his countenance. His criticisms were very keen, as I learned most clearly at concerts of the harpist Nadermann of Saxony and Mara, who was already getting along in years. The "Bridgethauer," mentioned by Held—whose incorrect writing of the name conveys to the German its correct pronunciation—was the "American ship captain who associated much with Beethoven" mentioned by Schindler and his copyists. George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower—a bright mulatto then 24 years old, son of an African father and German or Polish mother, an applauded public violinist in London at the age of ten years, and long in the service, as musician, of the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV—was never in America and knew as much probably of a ship and the science of navigation as ordinary shipmasters do of the violin and the mysteries of musical counterpoint. In 1802 he obtained leave of absence to visit his mother in Dresden and to use the waters of Teplitz and Carlsbad, which leave was prolonged that he might spend a few months in Vienna. His playing in public and private at Dresden had secured him such favorable letters of introduction as gained him a most brilliant reception in the highest musical circles of the Austrian capital, where he arrived a few days before Held met him at Schuppanzigh's. Beethoven, to whom he was introduced by Prince Lichnowsky, readily gave him aid in a public concert. The date of the concert has not been determined precisely; it was probably on May 24th. It has an interest on account of Beethoven's connection with it; for the day of the concert was the date of the completion and performance of the "Kreutzer" Sonata.
The famous Sonata in A minor, Op. 47, with concertante violin, dedicated to Rudolph Kreutzer in Paris [says Ries on page 82 of the "Notizen"], was originally composed by Beethoven for Bridgetower, an English artist. Here things did not go much better (Ries is referring to the tardiness of the composition of the horn sonata which Beethoven wrote for Punto), although a large part of the first Allegro was ready at an early date. Bridgetower pressed him greatly because the date of his concert had been set and he wanted to study his part. One morning Beethoven summoned me at half after 4 o'clock and said: "Copy the violin part of the first Allegro quickly." (His ordinary copyist was otherwise engaged.) The pianoforte part was noted down only here and there in parts. Bridgetower had to play the marvellously beautiful theme and variations in F from Beethoven's manuscript at the concert in the Augarten at 8 o'clock in the morning because there was no time to copy it. The final Allegro, however, was beautifully written, since it originally belonged to the Sonata in A major (Op. 30), which is dedicated to Czar Alexander. In its place Beethoven, thinking it too brilliant for the A major Sonata, put the variations which now form the finale.1
Bridgetower was thoughtful enough to leave in his copy of the Sonata a note upon that first performance of it, as follows: Relative to Beethoven's Op. 47. When I accompanied him in this Sonata-Concertante at Wien, at the repetition of the first part of the Presto, I imitated the flight, at the 18th bar, of the pianoforte of this movement thus:
He jumped up, embraced me, saying: "Noch einmal, mein lieber Bursch!" ("Once again, my dear boy!") Then he held the open pedal during this flight, the chord of C as at the ninth bar.
Beethoven's expression in the Andante was so chaste, which always characterized the performance of all his slow movements, that it was unanimously hailed to be repeated twice. George Polgreen Bridgetower. Bridgetower was mentioned in a letter from Beethoven to Baron von Wetzlar, in this language, under date May 18: Although we have never addressed each other I do not hesitate to recommend to you the bearer, Mr. Brishdower, a very capable virtuoso who has a complete command of his instrument. Besides his concertos he plays quartets admirably, I greatly wish that you make him known to others. He has commended himself favorably to Lobkowitz and Fries and all other eminent lovers (of music). I think it would be not at all a bad idea if you were to take him for an evening to Therese Schonfeld, where I know many friends assemble and at your house. I know that you will thank me for having made you acquainted with him. •
'The following observation on the sonata by Czerny is also interesting: "In the Sonata written for Bridgetower and dedicated to Kreutzer, Op. 47 (of which the first movement was composed in four days and the other two [?] added from a sonata already completed), the concluding passage is said to be borrowed from a piece of Kreutzer's already in print. I had this assurance immediately after the publication of the Beethoven Sonata from a French musician (1805). It would be worth while to investigate the matter. Perhaps therein lies the reason of its dedication." And further: "Bridgetower was a mulatto and played very extravagantly; when he played the sonata with Beethoven it was laughed at."
The Career Of Bridgetower 11
Bridgetower, when advanced in years, talking with Mr. Thirlwall about Beethoven, told him that at the time the Sonata, Op. 47, was composed, he and the composer were constant companions, and that the first copy bore a dedication to him; but before he departed from Vienna they had a quarrel about a girl, and Beethoven then dedicated the work to Rudolph Kreutzer.l
'Letters and other documents, some of which were placed in Mr. Thayer's hands by Samuel Appleby, Esq., relative to Bridgetower, are printed in an appendix to Vol. II of the first German edition of this biography and as foot-notes and otherwise in Vol. III. What is essential in the memoranda and documents can be put into a much smaller compass. The subscription for the concert amounted to 1140 florins and the list was headed by the English envoy. Bridgetower's father was known in England as the "Abyssinian Prince," and Mr. Thayer speculates whether the title was genuine or but a sobriquet given to him suggested by Dr. Johnson's "Rasselas"; but it will appear presently that he was called an "African Prince," not an Abyssinian; how his father got to Biala in Poland, where Bridgetower was born, or whether his mother was a German or a Pole, remains a mystery which has not yet been cleared up. The first memorandum of information in Mr. Thayer's collection was in the shape of an excerpt from a communication from London written by Abt Vogler and printed in Bossler's "Musikalische Correspondenz" on July 7, 1790. Abt Vogler's letter bears date London, June 6, 1790; in it he said:
"Last Wednesday, June 2nd, I attended a concert here in Hanover Square where two young heroes contested with each other on the violin and all music-lovers and cognoscenti found most agreeable entertainment for three hours. The two played concertos alternately and both won the warmest applause. The quartet, however, which was played by young virtuosi whose combined ages did not reach 40 years, by virtue of a fine, cheerful, witty and yet harmonious performance exceeded all the expectations that experienced players could gratify. The first violin was played by Clement of Vienna, eight and one-half, the second by Bridgetower of Africa, ten years of age." The Prince of Wales, afterwards King George IV, took the youth into his service as first violinist in the Pavilion at Brighton. The next piece of information which reached Thayer told of Bridgetower's first concert in Dresden on July 24, 1802. A second concert was given on March 18, 1803, at which a brother of the violinist, who played the violoncello, took part. A letter from Friedrich Lindemann, a member of the Prince of Wales's orchestra, dated January 14, 1803, contained the information that a letter of Bridgetower's forwarded to Brighton by a certain "Billy" Cole had been placed in the hands of the Prince, who read it at once, appeared to be highly satisfied, and granted the writer's request to be permitted to go to Vienna. Thayer did not learn the dates of Bridgetower's birth or death, but Dr. Riemann in his revision of the second Volume says that he died "between 1840 and 1850." This is an error. In the May number for 1908 of "The Musical Times" (London) Mr. F. G. Edwards printed the results of an investigation into Bridgetower's life, and provided some new and definite information from a collection of letters and documents in the possession of Arthur F. Hill, F.S.A. From this article it appears that Bridgetower was a pupil of Barthelemon, Giornovichi, Thomas Attwood and—as he claimed—Haydn. If he really was a pupil of Haydn, he must, as Mr. Edwards pointed out, have been in the neighborhood of Vienna before he had completed his tenth year. To this the present writer adds that if he had been a pupil of Haydn's the latter would not have omitted his name in the list of names which he made of the London musicians on his first visit to the English metropolis, for he included "Clement petit," who was then between ten and eleven years old. (See, "Music and Manners in the Classical Period," by H. E. Krehbiel, p. 77.) He made his first public appearance in Paris at a Concert Spirituel on April 13, 1789. In the announcement of this concert he was described as "Mr. Georges Bridgetower, ne aux colonies anglaises, ag6 de 9 ans." (Yet his passport issued by the police authorities, gives Biala in Poland as his birthplace.) A concert for his benefit was given on May 27, 1789, at the Salle du Pantheon. Soon thereafter he crossed the channel and, if his father is to be believed, he played for the first time in England before George III and his court at Windsor Castle. Next he appears at Bath, the "Morning Post" of
When Beethoven removed from the house "am Peter" to the theatre building, he took his brother Karl (Kaspar) to live November 25, 1789, reporting "Amongst those added to the Sunday promenade were the African Prince in the Turkish attire. The son of this African Prince has been celebrated as a very accomplished musician." The same newspaper, on December 8, a fortnight later, tells of a concert given on the Saturday morning immediately preceding the publication which was "more crowded and splendid than has ever been known at this place, upwards of 550 people being present. Rauzzini was enraptured, and declared that he had never heard such execution before, even from his friend La Motte, who was, he thought, much inferior to this wonderful boy. The father was in the gallery, and so affected by the applause bestowed on his son, that tears of pleasure and gratitude flowed in profusion." It would seem as if the modern methods of advertising musical artists is far behind the old in the impudent display of charlantanry. The plain "Georges" of the first Paris concert, the later George Polgreen, in the announcement of his first concert in Bath becomes George Augustus Frederick. Why? The Christian name of the Prince of Wales was George Augustus Frederick. In this announcement he is described as "a youth of Ten Years old, Pupil of the celebrated Haydn." The newspapers were amiable or gullible, or both. The lad played a concerto between "the 2d and 3d Acts" of "The Messiah" at a performance of Handel's oratorio given for the benefit of Rauzzini on Christmas eve of the same year. He gave a concert in Bristol on December 18, 1789, leading the band "with the coolness and spirit of a Cramer to the astonishment and delight of all present," and on New Year's day, 1790. Next he went to London, where, at Drury Lane Theatre on February 19, 1790, he played a solo at a performance of "The Messiah." Referring to the Lenten concerts of that year, Parke says in his "Musical Memoirs": "Concertos were performed on the oboe by me and on the violin for the first time by Master Bridgetower, son of an African Prince, who was attended by his father habited in the costume of his country." The concert described by Abt Vogler was under the patronage of the Prince of Wales. At the Handel Commemoration of 1791 in Westminster Abbey, Bridgetower and Hummel, in scarlet coats, sat on either side of Joah Bates at the organ and pulled out the stops for him. He played in the orchestra at the Haydn-Salomon concerts in 1791, at several of the Lenten concerts in the King's Theatre in 1792, and on May 28 he performed a concerto by Viotti at Mr. Barthelemon's concert, the announcement stating that "Dr. Haydn will preside at the pianoforte." (Haydn's note-book contains no mention of the concert, which would in likelihood have been the case had Bridgetower ever been his pupil.) He was plainly on terms of intimacy with such musicians as Viotti, Francois Cramer, Attwood, and later of Samuel Wesley, who wrote of him in a tone of enthusiastic appreciation. In 1802, being then in the Prince of Wales's band at Brighton, he obtained leave, as Thayer notes, to visit Dresden and take the baths at Teplitz and Carlsbad; eventually, too, as we have seen, to visit Vienna. The passport issued to him in Vienna for his return to London described him as "a musician, native of Poland, aged 24 years, medium height, clean shaven, dark brown hair, brown eyes and straight, rather broad nose." He seems to have become a resident of London and to have continued in favor with musical and other notables for a considerable space, for Dr. Crotch asks his aid in securing the patronage of the Prince Regent for a concert. He received the degree of Bachelor of Music, on presentation of the usual exercise, from the University of Cambridge in 1811. There follow some years during which his life remains obscure, but in which he lived on the Continent. He was in Rome in 1825 and 1827; back in London in 1843, when Vincent Novello sent him a letter which he signed "your much obliged old pupil and professional admirer." John Ella met him in Vienna in 1845, but he was again in London in 1846, and there he died, apparently friendless and in poverty, on February 29, 1860. In the registry of his death, discovered by Mr. Edwards, his age is set down as 78 years; but he must have been eighty if he was nine when he played at the first concert in Paris in 1789. He was born either in 1779 or 1780. He published some pianoforte studies in 1812 under the title "Diatonica Armonica" which, with a few other printed pieces, are to be found in the British Museum. A ballad entitled "Henry," which was "Sung by Miss Feron and dedicated with permission to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales," was evidently composed in 1810.
Summer Lodgings At Dobling 13
with him,1 as twenty years later he gave a room to his factotum Schindler. This change of lodgings took place, according to Seyfried, before the concert of April 5—which is confirmed by the brother's new address being contained in the "StaatsSchematismus" for 1803—that annual publication being usually ready for distribution in April.2 At the beginning of the warm season Beethoven, as was his annual custom, appears to have passed some weeks in Baden to refresh himself and revive his energies after the irregular, exciting and fatiguing city life of the winter, before retiring to the summer lodgings, whose position he describes in a note to Ries ("Notizen," p. 128) as "in Oberdobling No. 4, the street to the left where you go down the mountain to Heiligenstadt."
The Herrengasse is still "die Strasse links" at the extremity of the village, as it was then; but the multiplication of houses and the change in their numbers render it uncertain which in those days bore the number 4. At all events it had, in 1803, gardens, vineyards or green fields both in front and rear. True, it was half an hour's walk farther than from Heiligenstadt to the scenes in which he had composed the second Symphony, the preceding summer; but, to compensate for this, it was so much nearer the city—was in the more immediate vicinity of that arm of the Danube called the "Canal"—and almost under its windows was the gorge of the Krottenbach, which separates Dobling from Heiligenstadt, and which, as it extends inland from the river, spreads into a fine vale, then very solitary and still very beautiful. This was the house, this the summer, and these the scenes, in which the composer wrought out the
'"Hr. Karl v. Beethoven lives auf-der-Wien 26." "Staats-Schematismus," 1803, p. 150; and ibid. 1804, p. 154. "Hr. Ludwig van Beethofen, auf-der-Wien 26."—See "Auskunftsbuch," 1804, p. 204. "An-der-Wien, No. 26. Bartoloma Zitterbarth, K. K. Prin. Schauspielhaus."—See "Vollstandiges Verzeichniss aller .... der numerirten Hauser, deren EigenthUmer," etc., etc., Wien, 1804, p. 133.
JA letter printed in 1909 by Leopold Schmidt in his collection from the archives of the Simrock firm, confirms the change of lodgings to the theatre and also brother Karl's activity as correspondent and arranger. In it he offers a grand Sonata for violin, to appear simultaneously in London, Leipsic, Vienna and Bonn, for 30 florins; a grand Symphony for 400 florins. When the "Kreutzer" Sonata was published (it was announced by Trag on May 18, 1805) Karl acknowledged the receipt of a copy in a letter to Simrock, adding that all the other publishers sent six copies of the works printed by them and asking for the remaining five. Simrock took him to task rather sharply for what he considered a piece of presumption, in a letter which he enclosed to Ferdinand Ries with the statement that he might read it if he wanted to. "I bought the Sonata of Louis van Beethoven," says the indignant publisher, "and in his letter concerning it there is not a word about giving him six copies in addition to the fees— a matter important enough to have been mentioned; I was under the impression that Louis van Beethoven composed his own works; what I am certain of is that I have fully complied with all the conditions of the contract and am indebted to nobody." In the note to Ries he calls Karl's conduct "impertinent and deserving of a harsher treatment, for Herr Karl seems to me incorrigible."