George Bridgetower: Violin Virtuoso

The Trustees of the British Museum, via Art Resource, NY


George Bridgetower was a violin virtuoso who lived from 1778 – 1860. He is most well-known for his friendship with Beethoven, but George himself was a highly accomplish prodigy who even earned the recognition of King George IV.  

George was half Eastern European and half West Indian. His father served the Hungarian Prince Esterhazy, who was a patron of the composer Joseph Haydn. George supposedly studied with Haydn in the 1790s, and this may have fostered his musical talents early on. By the time George was 10 years old, he was playing at the famous Drury Lane Theatre in London. He also had numerous performances in Paris, Bath, and Bristol. 

When George was 23 years old, he met Beethoven and they became good friends. Beethoven described George as “a very capable virtuoso who has a complete command of his instrument.” Beethoven was so taken with George’s talents that he originally dedicated the Kreutzer Sonata, also known as the Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, to him. However, the two had an argument which is why the piece was re-dedicated to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer. Surprisingly, Kreutzer actually never even played the piece because he thought it was too difficult. Listen to the Kreutzer Sonata here!

George was an exceptionally talented violinist, and in 1807, he was elected into the Royal Society of Musicians. Here, he performed with the Royal Philharmonic Society Orchestra and one of the concerts he performed in was attended by King George III. George then went on to pursue his Bachelor of Music from Cambridge in 1811. His education was funded by the future King George IV. George returned to London to continue playing and teaching until his death, in 1860.

Though George Bridgewater is a lesser-known name in the world of classical music, he was extremely gifted and deserves greater recognition and respect. Take a look at this video from Cambridge University to learn more about George!