In this talk, recorded in March of 2010, former U. S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove shared poems from her then-new book, Sonata Mulattica. This collection tells the story of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower. Previously just a footnote in Beethoven’s biography, Bridgetower—who was a Black violinist—had a sonata dedicated to him, and then, after a falling out over a girl, found that same sonata renamed. In this groundbreaking book, Dove tells Bridgetower’s story and restores one piece of lost history of African Americans in classical music.
Without Dove to revive his story, Bridgetower may have been lost to time. Dove once noted, “There’s always been a special place in my work for people who drop out of history.” In this reading, which feels like an intimate fireside chat, she brings George Polgreen Bridgetower to life for an audience in whose minds he lives still. Let’s rekindle his spirit once again, and hear what Dove’s writings—and Bridgetower’s life and music—continue to tell us today.