You know the legend. The Bridgetower Sonata , or “Sonata Mulattica”, as it appears on the composer’s original manuscript, is better known as Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in A, Op. 47, The Kreutzer . As the story goes, Beethoven and his new friend, a young, mixed race violin whizz called George Polgreen Bridgetower, gave the first performance of the work together, playing from a score on which the ink was still wet. But weeks later, Beethoven dropped the original dedicatee in favour of the more influential (and more white) virtuoso, Rodolphe Kreutzer.

Bridgetower

US poet laureate Rita Dove brought this legend to life in her 2009 book, Sonata Mulattica . Now Congolese author Emmanuel Donga has written a novel on the same subject. Dongala writes about the music of the day with keen ear, and about the social and political landscape with a historian’s eye for detail. While Dove’s poems capture the sights and sounds and smells of 18th-century Europe, Dongala’s novel goes further, taking you inside the...