Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

Joseph Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-GeorgesI want to push my fav character from black history, Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, since this is black history month.

OK, I want to push my fav character from black history, Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, since this is black history month, and I just posted that MTV video on the subject.

A short and abbreviated summary of is accomplishments focusing on his musical talents:

Born in Guadeloupe, he was the son of George Bologne de Saint-Georges, a wealthy planter, and Nanon, his African slave. Among his many accomplishments he was a champion fencer, a virtuoso violinist and conductor of the leading symphony orchestra in Paris. During the French Revolution, Saint-Georges was colonel of the Légion St.-Georges, the first all-black regiment in Europe, fighting on the side of the Republic.
Not sure how much about him is factual and how much his reputation has been fictionalised. He has been called the “black Mozart”, which kind of denigrates his abilities as a musician to be compared to Mozart. His musical abilities were eclipsed by his swordsmanship until François Gossec dedicated a set of six Trios to Saint Georges in 1766 that led to the revealation that the famous swordsman also played the violin. Some of the most important musicians in Europe contributed and respected the Chevlier’s musical abilities.  Dedications in Gossec’s and violinist Antonio Lolli concertis that were also dedicated to the Chevalier suggest that Lolli polished his violin technique and Gossec was his composition teacher. There is no basis to the not always reliable François-Joseph Fétis’ claim that Saint-Georges studied violin with Jean-Marie Leclair, however similar traits in technique indicate Pierre Gaviniès as one of his mentors.
In 1769, the Parisian public was amazed to see Saint-Georges, the great fencer, among the violins of Gossec’s new orchestra, Le Concert des Amateurs. Two years later he became its concertmaster, and in 1772 he created a sensation with his debut as a soloist, playing his first two violin concertos, Op. II, with Gossec conducting the orchestra. “These concertos were performed last winter at a concert of the Amateurs by the author himself, who received great applause as much for their performance as for their composition.”
According to another source, “The celebrated Saint-Georges, mulatto fencer [and] violinist, created a sensation in Paris … [when] two years later … at the Concert Spirituel, he was appreciated not as much for his compositions as for his performances, enrapturing especially the feminine members of his audience.”

In 1773, when Gossec took over the direction of the prestigious but troubled Concert Spirituel, he designated Saint-Georges as his successor as director of the Concert des Amateurs. Less than two years under his direction, “Performing with great precision and delicate nuances [the Amateurs] became the best orchestra for symphonies in Paris, and perhaps in all of Europe.

In 1781, due to the massive financial losses incurred by its patrons in shipping arms to the American Revolution, Saint Georges’s Concert des Amateurs had to be disbanded. Not one to let it go without a fight, Saint-Georges turned to his friend and admirer, Philippe D’Orléans, duc de Chartres, for help. In 1773 at age 26, Philippe was elected Grand Master of the ‘Grand Orient de France’ after uniting all the Masonic organizations in France. Responding to Saint-Georges’s plea, Philippe revived the orchestra as part of the Loge Olympique, an exclusive Freemason Lodge. Renamed Le Concert Olympique, with practically the same personnel, it performed in the grand salon of the Palais Royal. In 1785, Count D’Ogny, grandmaster of the Lodge and member of its cello section, authorized Saint-Georges to commission Haydn to compose six new symphonies for the “Concert Olympique.” Conducted by Saint-Georges, Haydn’s “Paris” symphonies were first performed at the Salle des Gardes-Suisses of the Tuileries, a much larger hall, in order to accommodate the huge public demand to hear Haydn’s new works.

 He has been portrayed in fiction. I thought I had posted about him being in the Nicolas Le Floch book/episode, Le dîner de Gueux (Beggars Banquet) where he is the champion of Louis XV in a fencing match. Not sure if some of his life has been “enhanced” by Roger de Beauvoir’s 1840 romantic novel about him called, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, or if it is truly as incredible without needing embellishments.  His musical talents are quite impressive, but he was more than just a musician.  The Chevalier was a man of his times in reality the way Nicolas Le Floch is in the fictional series.
Not sure why he is not better known other than he is “French”, but that shouldn’t detract on his reputation in modern times. It sure didn’t when he was alive.
The wikipedia article on him is quite impressive.

 

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: