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Rita Dove on Sonata Mulattica

Rita Dove – Sonata Mulattica

by Theresa Crushshon of

Celebrating American Poetry with cellist Rita Dove

Rita Dove is an American cellist who currently serves as a professor of English at the University of Virginia. Last month, Dove was one of the poets invited to read her works at the White House. Dove is a very interesting character. Not only is she a celebrated musician, but she is also the Pulitzer Prize-winning former United States poet laureate and the author of twelve books.

Her most recent book is Sonata Mulattica. In Sonata Mulattica, Rita Dove presents a collection of poems subtitled “A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play.” Utilizing lyrical narrative, Rita Dove breathes life into an unknown African classical violinist, George Polgreen Bridgetower.

Deutsch: George Bridgetower

Deutsch: George Bridgetower

Dove tells a fascinating tale of a brotherly friendship between Beethoven and Bridgetower that went sour over a disagreement over a woman. In a telephone interview with Dove she states, “Beethoven really took offense to Bridgetower’s comments towards this woman he liked… and Beethoven removed Bridgetower’s name from a sonata the composer had dedicated to him, Bridgetower being the mulatto of ‘Sonata Mulattica,’ which was performed for the first time in Vienna in 1803, with Beethoven on piano and Bridgetower on violin.”

Thanks to Dove’s research we know that George Polgreen Bridgetower (1780 – 1860) was a genius of African classical music. The violin virtuoso was the son of a Polish-German mother and an Afro-Caribbean father and a dear friend of Beethoven, a black classical pianist. For more on Dove: Rita Dove – Sonata Mulattica.


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