The Bridgewater Sonata: Sonata Mulattica

The Bridgewater Sonata by Emmanuel Dongalaby Emmanuel Dongala
Translated by Marjolijn de Jager
Published by Schaffner Press, Inc.: April 15, 2021

 

A violin prodigy of mixed race takes 18th-century Europe by storm, becoming a court favorite of the Prince of Wales and befriending Ludwig Van Beethoven.

“In a departure from his previous work, award-winning Congolese novelist Dongala (Johnny Mad Dog) reimagines a historical period: the career of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, a child-prodigy violinist in 18th-century Europe. George debuts in Paris under the tutelage of his father, Frederick de Augustus, who passes as an African prince though he’s from Barbados; George’s mother is Polish. Thus, while Dongala offers a fine-tuned understanding of music, he is aiming for more, addressing issues of race, class, and the continuing shadow of enslavement over the era. As Frederick parades his son around Europe to bring in much-needed funds (a parallel to the relationship between Mozart and his father), George meets luminaries, from Thomas Jefferson to the Marquis de Lafayette, and is eventually befriended by an ascendant Beethoven, who dedicates his Bridgetower violin and piano sonata to him. Even music aficionados might not have heard that title; after a falling-out, Beethoven rechristened the work as his renowned Kreutzer Sonata. In the end, Dongala reveals how fractious human interaction can be.

“VERDICT: Charming in its details and sharply perceptive in its intent, this fluidly translated work is not just for music lovers but for everyone interested in the culture and history of its setting, and in the risks of friendship.”

 РEdward Cone, New York, Library Journal

Interview with Emmanuel Dongala, Author of The Bridgetower Sonata: Sonata Mulattica

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Limelight Review by Harriet Cunningham (Subscription Required)

As mentioned on NYTimes “Globetrotting” list of international titles coming in 2021

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