The life, music and fencing of the Afro-French composer Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) are presented in detail at:
Episode 1 of 5
Presented by Donald Macleod
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges began life in 1745 as the illegitimate son of a Guadeloupe plantation owner and an African slave, going on to become one of the most fashionable people in Paris. Not only was he a composer and virtuosic violinist, but also a notable athlete, gaining much renown at fencing. His music teachers included Leclair and Gossec, and he would eventually take over conducting the Concert des Amateurs, an orchestra that frequently premiered his violin concertos with Saint-Georges as the soloist. The Concert des Amateurs went on to become one of the best orchestras in Europe under his direction. Saint-Georges also founded La Loge Olympique, which commissioned Haydn's Paris symphonies. His connections with royalty and the aristocracy would eventually lead him into trouble during the French Revolution. Although appointed Colonel of the Legion of Americans, he remained under suspicion and was eventually imprisoned for over a year. He ended his days in a Paris he hardly recognised, and died in 1799.
By 1749 Saint-Georges and his family had moved to Paris where he soon found himself enrolled at a specialist fencing school run by Nicholas Texier de La Boëssière, inventor of the fencing mask. The young Joseph took to fencing immediately, and would not only become a celebrated composer with many aristocratic patrons, but also one of the leading fencers of his day in all of France.
String Quartet in D major, Op 14 No 1
Harpsichord Sonata No 6 in E major
Anne Robert, harpsichord
Violin Concerto No 10 in G major
Qian Zhou, violin
Kevin Mallon, conductor
Producer Luke Whitlock.