Composers Datebook®

Beethoven's "Bridgetower" Sonata?

Composer's Datebook - May 24, 2023


On today's date in 1803, violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower, age 33, and pianist and composer Ludwig van Beethoven, age 32, gave the first performance in Vienna of a new Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano, a chamber work now regarded as one of Beethoven's greatest.

At the first rehearsal, Bridgetower had to read from Beethoven's manuscript score – no easy task considering Beethoven's poor penmanship – and at one point felt compelled to improvise a passage, which so enchanted Beethoven that he added Bridgetower's improvisation to his score. In fact, the two young men became fast friends, and were inseparable for a time.

Bridgetower was an English violin virtuoso born in Poland of a European mother and an African father. His Viennese friendship with Beethoven came to a sudden end, Bridgetower later claimed, when the two men became interested in the same young lady.

And so, even though it should be known as the Bridgetower Sonata, when this music was published as Beethoven's Op. 47, Beethoven dedicated the music to another contemporary virtuoso, a French violinist named Kreutzer, who apparently never performed it. Despite that fact, to this day, the work is known as Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) Violin Sonata No. 9, Op. 47 (Kreutzer) Pamela Frank, violin; Claude Frank, piano MusicMasters 67087

On This Day


  • 1886 - French conductor and composer conductor Paul Paray, in Le Tréport;

  • 1903 - Soviet-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian (Gregorian date: June 6);

  • 1936 - American composer Harold Budd, in Los Angeles;

  • 1941 - American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan (born Robert Zimmerman), in Duluth, Minn.;


  • 1968 - American composer Bernard Rogers, age 75, in Rochester, N.Y.;

  • 1974 - American composer Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, age 75, in New York City;

  • 1996 - American composer Jacob Druckman, age 67, in New Haven, Conn.;


  • 1803 - Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 9 ("Kreutzer Sonata"), in Vienna, with violinist George Bridgetower and Beethoven at the piano;

  • 1810 - Beethoven: incidental music for Goethe's play "Egmont," in Vienna at the Hofburg Theater;

  • 1833 - Marschner: opera "Hans Heiling," in Berlin at the Königliches Opernhaus;

  • 1899 - Massenet: "Cendrillon," in Paris;

  • 1906 - Delius: "Sea Drift" (to a text by Walt Whitman, in Essen, Germany;

  • 1911 - Elgar: Symphony No. 2, at the London Festival with the Queen's Hall Orchestra conducted by the composer;

  • 1918 - Bartók: opera "Bluebeard's Castle," at the Budapest Opera;

  • 1939 - Elliott Carter: "Pocahontas" Ballet, at the Martin Beck Theater in New York City , with an orchestra conducted by Fritz Kitzinger; Following Carter's ballet, the New York premiere of Copland's ballet "Billy the Kid" was presented (Copland's ballet had been premiered in Chicago on October 16, 1938);

  • 1948 - John Gay: "The Beggar's Opera" arranged by Benjamin Britten, in Cambridge;

  • 1970 - Panufnik: "Universal Prayer," at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City, Leopold Stokowski conducting.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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