The Bridgetower Sonata
Book Topics
Beethoven
Haydn
Mozart
Black classical composers
French Revolution
Abolitionist movement
Caribbean slavery
Alexander Dumas
George IV
Early feminism
Herschel
English court in the 18th Century
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The Bridgetower Sonata : Sonata Mulattica

In this vividly imagined, richly detailed novel, acclaimed Congolese author Emmanuel Dongala trains his laser-sharp wit and satirical perspective on the life and times of a figure from history: George Bridgetower, the violin prodigy, who, at the age of nine took the courtly world of 18th Century Europe by storm-and surprise, given the youth's unusual origins. For young George was or mixed-race parentage, or as was known in the parlance of the day--a mulatto.

Though his father Augustus was from Barbados, and dark-skinned, and his mother was a Polish handmaiden of the Hungarian court, this young virtuoso was welcomed into the high society of Paris on the eve of the French Revolution, and soon after fleeing to London was to become a court favorite of the Prince of Wales (the future George IV). From there, he returned to Vienna and became a close friend and confidant of the great composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven.

The two were to create an inseparable bond that resulted in their joint composition, "sonata mulattica" that later the tempestuous Ludwig renamed the Kreutzer Sonata after a falling out with his young friend. Brimming with lively characters and dialogue, and with cameo appearances of such historical figures as the writer Alexandre Dumas, the composer Joseph Haydn, astronomer George Herschel, and many others, The Bridgetower Sonata brings to light the issues of race, class, privilege, and with gentle humor reveals the rampant hypocrisy of the era that ironically mirrors our own.
Book Topics
Beethoven
Haydn
Mozart
Black classical composers
French Revolution
Abolitionist movement
Caribbean slavery
Alexander Dumas
George IV
Early feminism
Herschel
English court in the 18th Century

Reviews and Comments

  • "Charming in its details and sharply perceptive in its intent, this fluidly translated work is not just for music lovers but for everyone interested in the culture and history of its setting, and in the risks of friendship."