Facts about Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges Biography
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was a celebrated swordsman and composer in the era of the French Revolution who has been called “The Black Mozart.”
Possibly the first European composer of African descent, his father was a French plantation owner in Guadeloupe and his mother was a slave from Senegal.
Bologne was sent to France in 1753 for his education, and by the time he was a teenager he was serving in the king’s guard and studying music as well as fencing. He became a chevalier (knight) and took the name of his father’s estate.
Initially famous for his fencing, Chevalier de Saint-Georges became even more famous for his musicianship, performing with and then leading Le Concert Olympique, a Paris orchestra.
A solo violinist and composer of quartets, concertos and symphonies, Saint-Georges’s musical career seems to have lasted from the mid-1770s until about 1785.
A few years later, the French Revolution added another chapter to Saint-Georges’s already colorful life, when he served as a colonel in the Légion St.-Georges (1792), an all-Black regiment in defense of the French First Republic (and originally called the Free American Horse Legion).
Jailed for nearly a year in 1793 because of political infighting, he ended up returning to Paris in 1797 to lead a new orchestra. He died in 1799, reportedly of gangrene.
Something in Common with Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
4 Good Links
- Hyperbole, no doubt
- Parts of his story from WBUR public radio
- Dramatic and glowing video biography
- Listen to the Windsor Symphony Orchestra play some