Boulogne - Violin Concerto in D Major - Mov. 1/3


JOSEPH BOULOGNE, CHEVALIER DE SAINT-GEORGES (1745-1799) Concerto for violin and orchestra in D major Op. 3 No. 1 1. Allegro maestoso Performed by Tafelmusik Featuring Linda Melsted, violin *Joseph Boulogne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges was one of the most important figures in the Paris musical scene in the second half of the 18th century, he was also famous as a swordsman and equestrian. Known as the "Black Mozart" or the "Voltaire of music" he was one of the earliest musicians of the European classical type known to have African ancestry. Joseph Bologne was a mulatto born out-of-wedlock in Guadeloupe to Nanon, a former black Wolof slave, and a white French plantation owner, Georges Bologne de Saint-Georges. Although his father called himself de Saint-Georges, after one of his properties, he was not born into the nobility. In 1747 George Bologne was accused unjustly of murder and fled to France with Nanon and her child to prevent their being sold. After two years he was granted a royal pardon and the family returned to Guadeloupe. In 1753, at the age of eight, George took Joseph to France permanently where he was enrolled in a private academy. At the age of 13 Saint-Georges became a pupil of La Boëssière, a master of arms, and excelled in all physical exercises, especially fencing. When still a student Saint-Georges beat Alexandre Picard, a fencing-master of Rouen, who had mocked him as La Boëssières upstart mulatto. On graduating, at the age of 19, he was made a Gendarme de la Garde du Roi and dubbed chevalier. After the end of the Seven Years War, George Bologne returned to his Guadeloupe plantations, leaving his son with a handsome annuity. The young chevalier became the darling of fashionable society. In 1766 the Italian fencer Giuseppe Faldoni came to Paris to challenge Saint-Georges. Faldoni won, but proclaimed Saint-Georges the finest swordsman in Europe. Nothing is known of Saint-Georges early musical training. However, after 1764, works dedicated to him by Lolli and Gossec suggest that Gossec was his composition teacher and that Lolli taught him violin. In 1769 he became a member of Gossecs new orchestra, the Concert des Amateurs, at the Hôtel de Soubise. While still a young man, he acquired multiple reputations; as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a composer in the classical tradition. He composed and conducted for the private orchestra and theatre of the marquise de Montesson, the morganatic wife of the King's cousin, Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. In 1771, he was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs, and later director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, the biggest orchestra of his time (65-70 musicians). This orchestra commissioned Joseph Haydn to compose six symphonies (the "Paris Symphonies" Nr. 82-87), which Saint-Georges conducted for their world premiere. Renowned both for his skill as a composer and musician, he was selected for appointment as the director of the Royal Opera of Louis XVI. But this was prevented by three Parisian divas who petitioned the King in writing against the appointment, insisting that it would be beneath their dignity and injurious to their professional reputations for them to sing on stage under the direction of a "mulatto". Like many others associated with the aristocracy and the court at Versailles, Saint-Georges served in the army of the Revolution against France's foreign enemies, although he is not known to have joined the domestic revolutionary struggle prior to the imprisonment of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. He was appointed the first black colonel of the French army, and commanded a regiment of free colored volunteers, largely consisting of former slaves from the region of his birth. Repeatedly denounced, however, because of his aristocratic parentage and past association with the royal court, he was later expelled from the army, arrested, and died destitute in Paris in 1799.

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