21-22 YSOPB Final SINGLES - Flipbook - Page 25
Symphony No. 1 in G Major, Op. 11, No. 1 (1779)
JOSEPH BOLOGNE, CHEVALIER DE SAINT-GEORGES
(December 25, 1745-June 12, 1799)
Saint-Georges composed only two symphonies, both in the style of the PreClassical symphony of Giovanni Battista Sammartini and CPE Bach. Each
has three movements and the emphasis is on contrast of orchestral colors,
not necessarily on memorable melodies. Nowhere is this more obvious than
in the opening movement. Right from the beginning we are presented with
a propulsive energy, with interesting rhythmic and color contrasts between
the strings and winds. There are some melodic ideas, but what is more
noticeable is several moments where a steady accumulation of energy and
tension leads to a loud arrival where the sound then clears out and the
process starts over again. The effect is interesting and delightful.
The second movement is for strings only and does have a clear melody,
but the mood is more like background music or entertainment for a lighter
social gathering. The effect is pleasant without much contrast—lovely
chamber music for friends and guests.
The spirited, propulsive energy returns in the third movement. The musical
effects are similar to the first movement, with rhythmic and color contrasts
and occasional interesting harmonic twists. The first violins generally lead
the musical flow with the oboes and horns adding color and occasional
punch. The relentless energy continues to a breathless ending.
CLASSICAL SERIES: MOZART AND TCHAIKOVSKY
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was a French composer,
violinist, and conductor. Born in the French colony of Guadeloupe in the
West Indies, he was the son of a wealthy married plantation owner and a
Sengalese slave who belonged to his father’s wife. Joseph was educated
in France and eventually became quite established in Parisian social
circles. He was an accomplished violinist and conductor, leading several
performing groups in the 1780s and 1790s. Saint-Georges was also quite
an accomplished swordsman and equestrian. Since he was of mixed race,
Saint-Georges was affected by racism and racist laws in pre-Revolutionary
France. When the revolution declared equal rights to all French people,
Saint-Georges enlisted in the Revolutionary Army, eventually serving as
a colonel in the first all-black regiment in Europe. Today, Saint-Georges is
best remembered as the first known classical composer of African ancestry.
He composed operas as well as orchestral and chamber works.
Chevalier de Saint-Georges has often been referred to as “the Black
Mozart.” The revival of information on the life and work of him has revealed
another example of brilliant work done by active musicians who are often
overshadowed by more famous figures that history has chosen to edify.
The perspectives gained by the awareness and knowledge of these works
show just how music permeated every aspect of culture.