Joseph Bologne De Saint-georges (1745-1799)

Episodes

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01An American In Paris20170116

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.

Joseph learned the violin from an early age, tutored by a man called Plato, his father's plantation manager in Guadeloupe. He went on to become not only a brilliant violinist, but also would compose many works for his instrument in different combinations.

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

Apollon Quartet

Harpsichord Sonata No 6 in E major

Anne Robert, harpsichord

Violin Concerto No 10 in G major

Qian Zhou, violin

Toronto Camerata

Kevin Mallon, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

Donald Macleod focuses on Chevalier de Saint-Georges' arrival in Paris.

02The Darling Of Parisian Society20170117

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.

On leaving school, and because of his father's position, Joseph took up a commission in the prestigious Company of Musketeers, part of Louis XV's royal household. With his dashing good looks and personality, he became a hit. However he did encounter prejudice amongst some of his comrades, and was eventually forced to resign. Around this time his music was becoming popular in fashionable salons.

By 1766 Saint-Georges started having composition lessons with Joseph Gossec. Gossec dedicated his Opus 9 set of Trio Sonatas to his fashionable student. Saint-Georges soon found himself performing under Gossec's direction in the Concert des Amateurs, which became the platform for premiering many of the younger composer's works, such as the Violin Concerto in G major, published in 1772.

Romance: Au penchant qui nous entraîne

Luanda Siqueira, soprano

Olivier Baumont, harpsichord

Andantino: Feuillage épais que je chéris

Sonata in E flat major for harp and flute

Sandrine Chatron, harp

Amélie Michel, transverse flute

Francois-Joseph Gossec

Trio Sonata in F major, Op 9 No 3

Ensemble Hermiolia

Violin Concerto in G major, Op 2 No 1

Yura Lee, violin

Bavarian Kammerphilharmonie

Reinhard Goebel, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

Donald Macleod focuses on how Saint-Georges became popular in Parisian society.

03Composing Comic Opera20170118

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.

Saint-Georges and his teacher Gossec were amongst the first to compose string quartets in France. Saint-Georges printed his first set in 1773, and in this same year he also took over the direction of the Concerts des Amateurs. Under his leadership the orchestra grew in size, and gave the premiere performances of many of his works.

Saint-Georges' popularity had grown to such a pitch that Queen Marie-Antoinette supported his application for a significant post at the Paris Opera. Unfortunately a group of singers objected to his appointment due to their prejudice, and he was subsequently turned down. This didn't deter Saint-Georges from composing music for the stage, including his opera L'amant anonyme, The Anonymous Lover.

Romance: Par pitié daignés vous rendre

Luanda Siqueira, soprano

Florence Malgoire, violin

Olivier Baumont, harpsichord

String Quartet in F minor, Op 14 No 3 (1st mvt)

Apollon Quartet

Violin Concerto in D major, Op 4 No 1

Qian Zhou, violin

Toronto Camerata

Kevin Mallon, conductor

L'amant anonyme (ballet music - excerpts)

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Jeanne Lamon, director

Symphonie Concertante in G major, Op 13 No 1

Pilsen Radio Symphony Orchestra

František Preisler Jnr, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

Donald Macleod focuses on Chevalier de Saint-Georges' being snubbed by the Paris Opera.

04Betting With The Prince Of Wales20170119

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.

Saint-Georges was not only popular as a composer and fencer in Paris, but his fame spread to London as well, where one of his songs, L'autre jour l'ombrage, became very well known. In 1787 Saint-Georges visited London where a duel was arranged between him and his fellow countryman Chevalier D'Eon. D'Eon had been a spy for the French court, and was famed not only for his fencing but also for his cross-dressing.

On returning to France Saint-Georges introduced Parisian society to the latest English fashions of frock coat, round hat and boots. He was something of a trendsetter and crowds would follow him in the streets. By 1789 he visited London for a second time and organised at least one benefit concert.

L'autre jour à l'ombrage

Luanda Siqueira, soprano

Florence Malgoire, violin

Olivier Baumont, harpsichord

Violin Concerto in C major, Op 5 No 1 (1st mvt)

Takako Nishizaki, violin

Cologne Chamber Orchestra

Helmut Müller-Brühl, conductor

L'amant anonyme (Overture)

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Jeanne Lamon, director

Violin Sonata No 2 in A major

Jean-Jacques Kantorow, violin

Brigitte Haudebourg, harpsichord

Producer Luke Whitlock.

Donald Macleod discusses Chevalier de Saint-Georges' wager with the Prince of Wales.

05Suspicion And Imprisonment20170120

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.

When the French Revolution took hold, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was all for it. He longed for a change in French society and for those born into slavery. By 1792 he approached the National Assembly to ask to be allowed to form his own black regiment to support the revolution. This was the first of its kind in Europe, and was called the Légion Saint-Georges. Through all this turmoil he went on giving concerts including performances with the horn player Lamothe. The Violin Concerto in A major has many passages specifically for the horn.

Even as Colonel of the Legion, Saint-Georges was not above suspicion. Having had many aristocratic friends he found himself dismissed and eventually sent to prison for a year. When he was released, he decided to return to San Domingo seeking a better life on his father's plantation. Unfortunately revolution had reached there as well. He returned to France and in 1799 died in Paris a broken and forgotten man. His once-famous music was later banned from performance in France by Napoleon.

Grazioso in G minor

Florence Malgoire, violin

Olivier Baumont, fortepiano

Violin Concerto in A major, Op 7 No 1

Miroslav Vilimec, violin

Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra

František Preisler Jr, conductor

String Quartet No 6 in G minor, Op 14

Apollon Quartet

Violin Concerto in D major, Op 3 No 1

Linda Melsted, violin

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Jeanne Lamon, director

Producer Luke Whitlock.

Donald Macleod focuses on the time when Chevalier de Saint-Georges led his men into battle