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LITR 022 Music and Literature : Beethoven. Kreutzer Sonata

A guide to music primary sources pertaining to course content

About Beethoven

Beethoven, Ludwig van

(b Bonn, bap. Dec 17, 1770d Vienna, March 26, 1827). German composer. His early achievements, as composer and performer, show him to be extending the Viennese Classical tradition that he had inherited from Mozart and Haydn. As personal affliction – deafness, and the inability to enter into happy personal relationships – loomed larger, he began to compose in an increasingly individual musical style, and at the end of his life he wrote his most sublime and profound works. From his success at combining tradition and exploration and personal expression, he came to be regarded as the dominant musical figure of the 19th century, and scarcely any significant composer since his time has escaped his influence or failed to acknowledge it. For the respect his works have commanded of musicians, and the popularity they have enjoyed among wider audiences, he is probably the most admired composer in the history of Western music.

Kerman, Joseph, Alan Tyson, Scott G. Burnham, Douglas Johnson, and William Drabkin. "Beethoven, Ludwig van." Grove Music Online. 2001. Oxford University Press. Date of access 25 Mar. 2020,

Portrait of George Bridgetower

Portrait of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, violinist. Drawing by Henry Edridge. British Museum, number 1876,0708.2379.

The drawing is thought to date from about 1790, when Bridgetower would have been about ten years old.

About the Kreutzer Sonata

Beethoven dedicated this sonata to Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831), whom he met in Vienna in 1798, when Kreutzer arrived as part of the retinue of General Bernadotte, the emissary of the French Directoire. The sonata was composed in 1802–3, however, for George Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860), a young violin virtuoso who had recently arrived in Vienna. Bridgetower was the son of a West Indian father of African descent and a European mother. The first performance was given by Bridgetower and Beethoven on May 24, 1803. During much of the "Classical" period in music, a sonata of this sort was styled an "accompanied sonata" - the keyboard part was the predominant part and the violin part an accompaniment. This began to change in the late 1770s with Mozart's duo sonatas. In the Kreutzer Sonata, the violin is fully an equal partner to the piano, even though the printed edition retains the old styling, but with a nod to the virtuosic violin part: "Sonata per il Piano-forte ed un Violino obligato, scritta in uno stile molto concertante, quasi come d'un concerto." - Articles from Oxford Music Online"Beethoven, Ludwig van," "Bridgetower, George Polgreen," "Kreutzer, Rodolphe," and "Sonata."

Sites with Beethoven Manuscripts

The Kreutzer Sonata

Lila Acheson Wallace Library, The Juilliard School, New York, NY. Juilliard Manuscript Collection 15 B393s no.9  

First edition held in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek. Musiksammlung  L18.Kaldeck MS40251a-qu.4°  

Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827

Selected Recordings