I have recently come across the music of a number of Black classical musicians of which I had been previously unaware. What a treat it has been to learn about these men and their music. I began working on a project to research “Classical Musicians of the African Diaspora – Pre 20th Century” for my own gratification, as well as to provide a more accurate accounting of history for my students. I will periodically share my research on these musicians. Read on to learn about Le Chevalier de Saint Georges. I have included a link to his violin concertos below. Enjoy!
Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), an Afro-French composer, violinist, and conductor, won his first fame not as a musician but as France’s best fencer. Born Joseph de Bologne, on December 25, 1745 on a plantation near Basse-Terre, on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, he was the son of a slave woman of African descent and a French plantation owner. Educated in France, de Bologne was only 19 when his mastery of the violin and the harpsichord earned him a dedication from Antonio Lolli in 1764. More came from François-Joseph Gossec (1766) and Carl Stamitz (1770). By 1771, Saint-Georges was first violin of a distinguished 70-member ensemble, Le Concert des amateurs. He became one of the earliest French composers of string quartets and symphonies concertantes. His first string quartets were performed in 1772 and published in 1773, the year in which he was appointed conductor. He later conducted Le Concert de la Loge Olympique, with which he premiered Haydn’s “Paris Symphonies” in 1787; and finally Le Cercle de l’Harmonie. Saint-Georges directed an important private musical theater, where some of his own songs and musicals were performed.
Take a moment to listen to this Composition of the legendary Le Chevalier de Saint Georges.