George Polgreen Bridgetower

Born: 11th October 1778

Died: 29th February 1860

Birth Place: Poland

Known for: Being a violinist

Bridgetower showed early talent, and even performed with Beethoven.

He was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians in 1807.

He earned a Bachelor of Music from Cambridge in 1811.

George Polgreen Bridgetower

Life story


Early talent


George Polgreen Bridgetower was born in Poland. His father was likely from Barbados and worked for a Polish prince. He showed a lot of talent in his childhood, and gave successful violin concerts in Paris, London, Bath and Bristol in 1789.


In 1791, the British Prince Regent (later George IV) took an interest in him and oversaw his musical education. The prince made sure George studied under the leader of the Royal Opera. George performed in around fifty concerts in London theatres between 1789 and 1799, and was employed by the Prince to perform in his orchestra in Brighton and London.


In the spring of 1789, George performed to great acclaim at the Pentemont Abbey, in Paris, with Thomas Jefferson and his family in attendance. One French newspaper raved about his performance saying, “his talent is one of the best replies one can give to philosophers who wish to deprive people of his nation and his colour of the opportunity to distinguish themselves in the art.”


Bridgetower and Beethoven


In 1803, George performed with Ludwig van Beethoven in Vienna. Beethoven was impressed, and dedicated his great Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major (Op.47) to George. The piece received its first public performance at a concert in the Augarten on 24 May 1803, with Beethoven on piano and George on violin.


The pair fell out soon afterwards, because George insulted a woman who turned out to be Beethoven’s friend. Beethoven broke off all relations and changed the dedication of the sonata. George returned to England, where he married in 1816, and continued his career, teaching, and performing. He was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians in October 1807, and attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge where he earned the degree of Bachelor of Music in June 1811.

What was the significance of George’s friendship with Beethoven? What was the impact of that friendship ending? What was the impact of George meeting the British Prince Regent?

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