The things you find on the web! I had to post this simply because, if it is true (and no reason to disbelieve, particularly) it is a wonderful story. I hope you all enjoy it and I hope you look forward to its performance this summer with Kai Gleusteen and Catherine Ordronneau.
Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata Started as “Sonata Mulattica”
From an article by Felicia R Lee:
Rita Dove, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet (and former poet laureate of the United States) has written a book called ”Sonata Mulattica.”
Built out of the life of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, a biracial violin prodigy who played for Haydn, Thomas Jefferson, and Beethoven, the narrative is a collection of poems subtitled “A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play.”
He was the son of a Polish-German mother and an Afro-Caribbean father.
Bridgetower’s father was a servant in a Hungarian castle where Haydn was music director. The nine-year-old genius with a cascade of dark curls went on to inspire Beethoven and help shape the development of classical music.
But he ended up relegated to a footnote in Beethoven’s life.
When he died in South London in 1860, his death certificate noted simply he was a “gentleman.”
In the poem “The Bridgetower,” Ms Dove writes
This bright-skinned papa’s boy/ could have sailed his fifteen-minute fame/ straight into the record books.
Years earlier, apparently in a fit of pique after a quarrel over a woman, Beethoven removed Bridgetower’s name from a sonata dedicated to him — Bridgetower was the mulatto of “Sonata Mulattica.”
The two men had performed it publicly for the first time in Vienna in 1803, with Beethoven on piano and Bridgetower on violin.
By the time it was published in 1805, it had morphed into the “Kreutzer” Sonata, dedicated to the French Violinist Rudolphe Kreutzer — who disliked it, said it was “unplayable,” and never played it.
Says Ms Dove,
The story being told is not just the story of his life but about the nature of fame, the nature of memory, public memory. Into the mix we pour the story of this mulatto boy. It’s also a story about youth. Youth is exotic, as well as race.
I’ve always been intrigued by the way history works, the way we decide what is mentioned. Here was the case of a man who made it into the history books, but barely. And who would have been, if not a household word, a household word in the musical world. That flame was snuffed out.
While she was growing up in Akron Ohio, Rita Dove played the cello. She had vaguely known about Bridgetower for years. She tucked him away in memory and pulled him out around 2003.
She was prodded by viewing the film “Immortal Beloved,” a fictionalized Beethoven biography. For several seconds, a black violinist is on the screen, and that sent Ms Dove to the Internet to research Bridgetower’s story.
She became entranced by this man, who had won wide critical acclaim in his lifetime.
I knew I didn’t want it to be a kind of historical tourism. I wanted to create a sense of this man, so I had to use my imagination for this prodigy who flew up the ranks of society.
Although Bridgetower failed to find a prominent place in the musical canon, major musical histories do record his achievements. He is found in “The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,” as well as on Internet sites like www.AfriClassical.com and its companion www.affriclassical.blogspot.com , which document black contributions to classical music.
Dove’s research also relied on documents like the diaries of Charlotte Papendiek, who was a servant in the court of George III of Britain and the wife of an accomplished musician, Christopher Papendiek. Christopher Papendiek took an interest in Bridgetower and arranged his first concerts.
The free-verse section of “Sonata Mulattica,” titled “Volkstheater: A Short Play for the Common Man,“ imagines the dust-up between Beethoven and Bridgewater.
Dove places them in Vienna; Bridgewater is a smooth-tongued flirt who tells a barmaid that “a black man’s kiss is a dangerous item/ and must be handled prudently.”
Beethoven, in this version, calls those who snicker “at honest emotion” “philistines,” and rips the dedication page of the sonata to shreds.
Dove says she had fun, letting her imagination run to writing poems which are the ruminations of a vast cast of characters who include Bridgewater’s father, Haydn, and Beethoven.
The poem “Self-Eulogy” reads:
Finally, the verdict’s/Come through./ All the pots licked/For their stew/Lie empty, cold;/ Soon the last copper coin will arrive…/ But, dear Papa — I’ve/ Tasted the gold.
She found Bridgetower both intriguing and sad.
His home was music, his home was his violin. He was exotic, he was good-looking, he was well-spoken, but I think somewhere inside he was very alone.
As a child, Bridgetower traveled from city to city, with his father acting as his manager, sometimes dressing himself and his son in exotic outfits to attract publicity.
William J Zwick, the creator of AfriClassical.com, says “Rita Dove does a wonderful job of humanizing the story.”
The Kreutzer Sonata is one of Beethoven’s most well-known works, and shows that a piece that has been valuable for centuries was done to show the genius of a black composer.
The story of Bridgetower is a corrective to the notion that certain cultural forms are somehow the province of particular groups, says Mike Phillips, a historian, novelist and former museum curator.
Phillips has contributed a series of essays to part of the British Library’s Web site (at www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/features/blackeuro ) that profiles five 19th-century figures of mixed European and African heritage, including Bridgetower, Alexandre Dumas and Pushkin. He also wrote the libretto for “Bridgewater: A Fable of London in 1807,” an opera in jazz and classical music performed by the English Touring Opera which premiered in London in 2007.
Says Phillips, “Bridgetower flourished in a time when the world outside Africa was like a huge concentration camp for black people.” He notes that while Bridgetower got a music degree at Cambridge and managed to earn a living as a musician, for much of his life the trans-Atlantic slave trade was at full-throttle.
Although little of Bridgetower’s work survives today, he associated with some of the major musicians of his time, for example, Giovanni Viotti, the violin virtuoso, and Samuel Wesley, the organist and composer.
Bridgetower was also crucial to the establishment of the Royal Academy of Music. The Royal Academy was the central influence on, and regulator of, Britain’s musical history at a time when the forms and structures of modern classical music were being invented, along with new instruments that produce the sounds heard in contemporary concert halls.
Who knows what might have happened, had that dedication survived. Writes Dove:
instead of a Regina Carter or Aaron Dworkin or Boyd Tinsley/ sprinkled here and there, we would fine/rafts of black kids scratching out scales/on their matchbox violins so that some day/ they might play the impossible:/ Beethoven’s Sonata No.9 in A Major, Op. 47,/ also known as the Bridgetower.
Rita Dove is a professor of English at the University of Virginia. At the age of 56, she has written 11 other books, including a novel, a drama and a short-story collection.
sole source: Felicia R Le
There are many challenges facing many people each and every day...some of them seem insurmountable. I wanted to let you know about something I am doing this summer that symbolizes and supports the people that deal with the specific challenges of living with cancer. This July, I will be riding the 2011 L’Etape de Tour Challenge benefiting InspireHealth. This is an actual stage of the Tour de France...109 Km of riding with over 3200 vertical metres of climbing across 3 mountain passes in the French Alps! And it includes the infamous Alpe D’Huez!
Have you heard of InspireHealth? It is an amazing - and unique - non-profit/charitable cancer care centre in Vancouver. The medical doctors incorporate research-based natural therapies into patients' conventional treatment program and it’s making a big difference in cancer recovery and survival.
100% - every penny - of the funds raised on this ride will go toward researching and offering better therapies and care for patients living with cancer.
Our team goal is to raise $30,000. My personal goal is to raise $5000. Will you help us do it?
I am proud to say that I am riding with a very special friend and InspireHealth team member, Salt Spring's Dr. Ron Reznick. Of course, all friendship aside, I would be more than happy to "out-raise" him and "out-race" him....help me make this happen for a great cause.
To make a secure online donation using your credit card, click on the link below:
FUNDRAISING LINK: http://etapechallenge.kintera.org/
For more information on InspireHealth, please see www.inspirehealth.ca
For more information on the 2011 L’Etape de Tour Challenge, please see:
Thanks for your support! It means so much.
is a poem
written by a teenager with cancer
This poem was written by a terminally ill young girl in a
New York Hospital.
It was sent
by a medical doctor -
Have you ever
On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to
Slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a
butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the
You better slow down.
Time is short.
Do you run through each day
When you ask How are you?
Do you hear
When the day is done
Do you lie
With the next hundred chores
You'd better slow down
Don't dance so
The music won't
Ever told your
We'll do it
And in your
Let a good
never had time
You'd better slow down.
The music won't
When you run
so fast to get somewhere
miss half the fun of getting
When you worry and hurry
It is like an unopened
Life is not a
Do take it
Before the song is
Music's Time Has Come
Last week in Salzburg, the town of Mozart's birth, musicians, composers, presenters, music educators, policymakers,funders and patrons, neuroscientists, and others who’ve spent a lifetime in the music field met to discuss the ways that music shapes our minds and our societies. The Salzburg Global Seminar titled, "Instrumental Value: The Transformative Power of Music" brought together 60 people from 23 countries and, out of the lively and informative sessions, brought
forward a joint statement which, I am sure, affirms for all of us, the reasons we believe so deeply in what we do as musicians and teachers.
Here is an excerpt from the "Salzburg Manifesto" and Sarah Lutman's excellent blog post on ArtsJournalblogs:
“The Value of Music: The Right to Play”
“The Salzburg Global Seminar meeting on The Transformative Power of Music believes that music is a proven gateway to engaged citizenship, personal development and well-being. Only through urgent and sustained action can we foster a new generation of energised, committed, self-aware, creative and productive members of society.
“ The inspiration and rewards unleashed by music are universal benefits that must be available to all as a human right. All children from the earliest age should have the opportunity to:
• unlock musical creativity,
• fulfil musical potential,
• develop musical expertise,
• shine for their musical achievements,
• encounter great music from all cultures, and
• share their new-found skills of creativity, teamwork, empathy, and discipline.
THIS IS WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
David Visentin has been named as founding Executive and Artistic Director of Sistema Toronto. The news of Sistema Toronto and the appointment were announced at last week's Glenn Gould Prize celebrations, which have honoured Canadian poet/singer icon Leonard Cohen as this year's recipient of the prize, now referred to as the "Nobel Prize of arts awards".
Working in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board and in close association with the original El Sistema leadership in Venezuela as well as other Sistema-based programs world-wide, Sistema Toronto plans to roll out a pilot project program in one of Toronto's priority underserved communities this September-October 2011. Sistema Toronto will, over the next five-years, build sistema "nucleos" throughout the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario and hopes to reach over 2500 children by the year 2016.
"Sistema Toronto is an idea whose time has most certainly come! The reviews are in. The statistics are in. All of these overwhelmingly support the findings of music's transformative power in the lives of children. It is a great honour to be working together with Robert Eisenberg, leader and social activist, and a motivated passionate board in the building of this important organization here in Toronto. We are working very hard to pull children back from the brink of the downward spirals of impoverished despair and destruction. The waste of human potential is tragic; this is the reason we are calling our campaign PLAYING TO POTENTIAL".
The 2010 SS Chamber Music Festival was a very special one for me...truth is, they are all special. But the one element that was added to this year's Festival was a concert in small, rustically-perfect, St. Mary's Church, near Fulford. The concert featured students of the Festival together with Leeds, England's Paul Elam of the group Fieldhead. The conceptual idea for the event was to bring together people on an idyllic Salt Spring night and to experience a sound world that blurred the lines of concert and performer and audience and that held the opportunity for spontaneous creation "in the moment". The risk, of course, is that the only thing spontaneous might be combustion. But these are the risks of igniting creative fire, blurring lines, improvising, and yielding to the moment. I think we did this...complete with a finale in the after-dark churchyard that was filled with purple glow from the surrounding trees. Magic!
And, this year, WE WILL DO IT AGAIN. Stay tuned for where.
Read an article by journalist Donald Gislason from the Icelandic Review about our last year's Festival.
I guess I would say that two of the most important forces in my life are the opening of oneself to experience and the disciplined development of our human potential. And these forces sometimes lead by "divining rod" to some wild and wondrous places.