The Amazing History and Music of The Chevalier de Saint Georges

UPDATE: I have just found out that they are going to come out with a movie on the life of Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint Georges, called Chevalier, that will be in the movie theaters in the United States opening on April 21, 2023! Because of that I am repeating this post!

About a year and a half ago [in September of 2021], Sheralyn and I were blessed to once again go to Jones Hall in downtown Houston and hear our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra. It was a wonderful program that contained a piece by a composer I was unfamiliar with-and shame on me for not knowing, Joseph Bologne-Chevalier de Saint Georges. What an amazing history and what an amazing man.

Joseph Bologne [December 25, 1745 – June 10, 1799]

From Wikipedia: “Born in the then French colony of Guadeloupe, he was the son of Georges de Bologne Saint-Georges, a wealthy married planter, and Anne, dite (called) Nanon, his wife’s African slave. When he was young, his father took him to France, where he was educated. During the French Revolution, the younger Saint-Georges served as a colonel of the Légion St.-Georges, the first all-black regiment in Europe, fighting on the side of the Republic.”

What is kind of amazing, at the time period, his father, instead of rejecting this son born from an African slave, he took not just his wife, but also “Nanon” and his son, with him to France, and spent much money making sure his son, Joseph Bologne, had the best possible education and music training and swordsmanship training.

Joseph Bolgne, who would become a virtuoso violinist and classical composer and great conductor, was also a great athlete: he was a great boxer and swimmer and he became a renowned championship fencer. It has been said the Joseph was the greatest swordsman in all of Europe, at that time. Because of his grace and his great accomplishments he would receive French knighthood, and therefore called Chevalier.

From the Houston Symphony Orchestra’s website: “Upon becoming a chevalier (knight), he took his father’s suffix “de Saint-Georges”—named after a plantation in Guadeloupe—to become known as ‘Chevalier de Saint-Georges’.

Saint-Georges composed and published numerous operas, string quartets, concertos, and symphonies over a short span of time, from 1771-1779. He performed all his violin concertos as soloist with Le Concert Olympique—an orchestra he also conducted.”

The Chevalier de Saint Georges, became acquainted with Mozart, and some people refer to Saint Georges as the Black Mozart. But some also dismiss that title because it seems like there were actually some musical ideas that Mozart borrowed from the Chevalier, not the other way around. In fact, in the concert at Jones Hall they have this pre-concert talk called “prelude”, and Calvin Dotsey played some examples of the violin concerto we were about to hear and in one phrase I heard, I thought to myself-I have heard that in some of Mozart pieces, and Mr. Dotsey asked, at the exact moment I was thinking that, have any of you heard that in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. Yes, yes I have. 🙂

In the HSO prelude talk we learned that the Chevalier de Saint Georges was truly a brilliant violinist who not only loved to play fast and furious but he loved to use the difficult high register notes on the violin.

Also something amazing about Joseph Bologne – again from the HSO website: “Saint-Georges commissioned Joseph Haydn to write six symphonies for his orchestra—Le Concert Olympique. These compositions are best known as Haydn’s “Paris” symphonies and were premiered and conducted by Saint-Georges.”

You would think with all these great accomplishments and the knighthood he received that he would be beloved by everyone. But no, he would still face bigotry and discrimination because of his mother being an African: “His name was put forward as a candidate for the director of the Paris Opera at one point, but the Opera’s prima donnas went to Queen Marie Antoinette and scuttled his candidacy (because they didn’t want to take orders from a “mulatto.”). Despite this, it’s thought that Marie Antoinette may have subsequently performed with Saint-Georges as his accompanist.

Also, there is this example from Wikipedia: “Louise Fusil, who had idolized Saint-Georges since she was a girl of 15, wrote: “In 1791, I stopped in Amiens where St. Georges and Lamothe were waiting for me, committed to give some concerts over the Easter holidays. We were to repeat them in Tournai. But the French refugees assembled in that town just across the border, could not abide the Creole they believed to be an agent of the despised Duke of Orléans. St. Georges was even advised [by its commandant] not to stop there for long.” According to a report by a local newspaper: “The dining room of the hotel where St. Georges, a citizen of France, was also staying, refused to serve him, but he remained perfectly calm; remarkable for a man with his means to defend himself.

At the age of 53, in 1799, the Chevalier de Saint Georges died of bladder disease in Paris, France.

This from Artaria: “There were certainly greater composers than Saint-Georges during the late 18th century but none who possessed anywhere near his remarkable range of talents, his exotic persona and fascinating personality.”

To read the entire interesting and informative article about The Chevalier de Saint-Georges from Artaria, please click here.

It’s a shame that there are more people like me, who have never heard of this amazing man, this great classical composer from African descent. I can see why his music would be popular at that time because of the melodic and Haydn like playfull bright characteristic nature of his compositions.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some melodic sweet compostitions by this classical French composer of African descent, Joseph Bologne-The Chevalier de Saint Georges.

Joseph Bologne: Symphony #1 in G Major:

Joseph Bologne: Symphony Concertante in G Major:

Joseph Bologne: Violin Concerto in C Major:

Joseph Bologne: Sonata for Two Violins in B Flat Major:

Joseph Bologne: String Quartet #3 in g minor, Allegro:

Thank you for reading and listening. I hope you enjoyed some of The Chevalier de Saint Georges’ music.

Robert, Clara, and Johannes

I am now reading this very interesting and enjoyable non-fiction biography of Johannes Brahms by composer/author, Jan Swafford: Johannes Brahms a Biography. I am just getting to the relationship that developed between Robert and Clara Schumann with a young Johannes Brahms. I will give a book review of this biography when I finish [as it is a very long book it will take me a few days to a week].

This book brought to mind this post I first published in this blog in August of 2021. I hope you don’t mind me repeating this post here.

Robert, Clara, and Johannes

I was listening to All Classical Portland on my I phone [Tune In radio App] the other day [April 2017] when they announced there would be a showing of the old time movie classic, “Song of Love”, a film about three giants in classical music, Robert Schumann, Clara Wieck, and Johannes Brahms, and how their lives intertwined.

This film from 1947, starring Katharine Hepburn, took place in Germany around the mid-19th century with the main theme revolving around the love and marriage of Robert Schumann to Clara Wieck, who would become Clara Schumann. These were two virtuoso pianists and composers who would come in contact and develop a friendship and mentoring with a young and upcoming virtuoso pianist, Johannes Brahms. Brahms would also become one of the great Romantic Era composers, along with Robert and Clara.

Clara Wieck Schumann [1819 – 1896] Robert Schumann [1810 – 1856]
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)

There was a great love affair between Robert and Clara. Sadly there was tragedy in their relationship when Robert Schumann, feeling much pressure and failure [in his own mind] had a mental breakdown, so much so at one point he tried to take his own life [unsuccessfully]. This led Clara to forgo composing more great music in order to take care of her beloved Robert. Brahms, who became great friends with Robert and Clara, and who developed a great fondness/love for Clara, also stood by his friend’s side in his time of tragedy. Robert Schumann, sadly, could not overcome his mental problems and would remain in an asylum until his death. After Robert’s death, Johannes Brahms would remain in great friendship with Clara and develop a strong love for her.

Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms are considered two of the greatest composers in the Romantic Era of classical music, and Clara Schumann with some great compositions, especially for the piano, is certainly recognized as the best female composer of that era.

Update from the book I am reading: I am learning that it wasn’t that Clara was recognized as a great composer for a woman, but that she was actually a bigger star [if I can say it that way] and beloved more than Robert during that time period for her virtuosic piano playing and composing.

All three had in their compositions some beautiful melodic and many times romantic themes. Listen to these great piano concertos by each composer to hear some beautiful melodies and wonderful sound. Robert Schumann’s piano concerto in a minor is one of my favorites.

Also, enjoy the first movement, Allegro Moderato, of Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G minor; and then enjoy the emotional and beautiful, Traumerei [from scenes from childhood], by Robert Schumann – composed for piano, this version is for orchestra and just like the original version for piano, it may bring tears to your eyes; and finally enjoy the final two movements of Brahms epic Symphony #1 in C minor.

Warning: Get some Kleenex before viewing Shumann’s “Traumerei”, as you will see the audience get emotional in Russia, as Vladimir Horowitz comes back home after 61 years to give a farewell concert in Moscow.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some beautiful music from these giants from the Romantic Era, Robert, Clara and Johannes.

Clara Schumann: Piano Concerto in a minor:

Clara Schumann: Piano Trio in g minor, Movement 1 Allegro Moderato:

Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in a minor:

Robert Schumann: “Traumerei” from Scenes from Childhood:

Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto #2 in B-Flat Major:

Johannes Brahms: Symphony #1 in c minor, Movements 3, un poco allegretto; and 4, Adagio–Allegro non troppo:

Continue reading “Robert, Clara, and Johannes”

Classical Music Countdown on This 2022 New Years Eve Weekend

As we get close to New Years 2022, you will see many countdowns of the 10 or 100 best songs of the year on FM radio; and on the TV networks you may get the 10 or more top news stories of the year. This Classical music blog will give out, in my humble opinion, my top pieces in four different classical music genres on the next four days-Thursday, Friday [New Year’s Eve], Saturday [New Years Day], and Sunday [Jan. 2, 2022]. Of course, they won’t be for this past year as these pieces were composed many years/decades/centuries ago by the masters of classical music.

On this Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021 I will give my opinion of my four favorite overtures. On Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, it will be my top four violin concertos. On New Years Day, Jan. 1, 2022 I will give my six favorite piano concertos, and on Sunday Jan. 2, 2022, it will be my top six Symphonies.

Without further ado, on this Thursday Dec. 20, please turn up the volume and listen to this blog’s top 4 overtures [in reverse order].

4. Felix Mendelssohn’s, “Hebrides Overture“:

3. Gioachino Rossini’s, “William Tell Overture”:

2. P.I. Tchaikovsky’s, “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture”:

and drum roll please, my choice for the number one overture is

#1 P.I. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture:

Remember these aren’t the definitive top overtures, only those top ones in my opinion, so take them with a grain of salt. 🙂 I hope you enjoyed them even if they aren’t your top four.

Some Mozart Magic

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the quintessential “Classical Era” composer, was a prolific composer in almost every form of classical composition: symphonies, concertos, chamber music and operas.  His great operas also produced great overtures.  They are all great, but I chose to feature a little Mozart magic, … “The Magic Flute”, that is.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [Jan. 27, 1756 – Dec. 5, 1791]

Because this overture was written for his opera of the same name, it is not a concert overture, although it is often played as a stand alone piece, like a concert overture, because of its wonderful melodies and popularity with concert goers.

The most well known aria from Mozart’s opera, “The Magic Flute” is called “The Queen of the Night.”  This is one of my favorites.

Please turn up the volume to enjoy some wonderful Mozart magic.

W.A. Mozart: Overture to the Magic Flute:

W.A. Mozart: “Queen of the Night”, Aria from ‘The Magic Flute’:

Wishing A Merry Christmas To All Christians

It was 11 Christmas Day’s ago that Sandy, Susan, Bradley and I lost a part of our hearts, our Mom, Irene, “Reenie”. While we remember our Mom [and Pop] everyday, Christmas Day brings a special day of remembrance for Reenie, a Yankee Doodle Dandy, who was born on the 4th of July and died on Christmas day.

This Christmas will be the 6th Christmas with our [Sheralyn and my] granddaughter, Skye Noelle. We just celebrated Skye’s sixth birthday on December 11, 2021.  I know Mom and Pop are smiling down in joy at our granddaughter blessing.

6 year old, Skye Noelle

While celebrating our granddaughter Skye’s sixth birthday and remembering Mom on this Christmas Day as always, Tales wants to wish a very Merry and Blessed Christmas to my wife Sheralyn, and to all of my Christian friends, and to all Christians.

For everyone who celebrates Christmas, here are a few of my favorite Christmas songs that I hope you enjoy.  I picked these because they are so, very beautiful.  

So, please turn up the volume and enjoy.

O Come All Ye Faithful – Andy Williams:

Andy Williams: It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year:

Johnny Mathis: O’ Holy Night:

Johnny Mathis: Do You Hear What I Hear:

Merry Christmas!

Welcome Winter 2021-22

Today, Tuesday Dec 21, 2021, marks the first day of Winter-The Winter Solstice!

Half of the planet will see the shortest hours of sunlight and the longest dark hours of the year.

It just seems right as we are in the last week of the Christmas season, with Christmas this Saturday, that the cold weather comes in and the fire places get to warm up.

To celebrate this Winter, as we celebrate all the seasons on this classical music blog, there is no better way to celebrate the new season with the Italian Baroque composer, Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. The Four Seasons were four short Violin Concertos, each concerto representing one of the four seasons.

Antonio Vivaldi [1678 – 1741]

“Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was concerto #4 scored in F minor with three movements: 1. Allegro non molto, 2. Largo, and 3. Allegro. This, is one of my favorite concerto of the Four seasons.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy the exciting Winter, from Antonio Vivaldi!

Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Concerto #4, Winter:

Welcome Winter!

The Sonata Form Used In the Composition of Classical Music

Literally, the word sonata means a piece played as opposed to a cantata-a piece sung.  In classical music sonatas [other than piano sonatas] are pieces written for an instrument that will usually involve piano accompaniment.  For example, a violin sonata involves one violin and one piano.  A violin sonata could also be described as a “sonata for violin and piano”. There are sonatas that have been written for almost every instrument of the orchestra.  

Franz Joseph, “Papa”, Haydn:

There is another meaning of the word sonata which was developed in the classical era by Franz “Papa” Joseph Haydn. That definition of sonata is what this post will deal with. It is the form or structure that many pieces in the classical era use in their composition.  This form of composition will involve 3 parts: 1. exposition, 2. development, and 3. recapitulation.

This structure or form that a composer uses to write the movement of a piece is not just used for sonatas, as you might think.  It is also used in many large orchestral works, symphonies and concertos.  Sonata is not the only form that the great composers used to compose a movement or an entire piece of classical music.  Some other forms of composition are “rondo”, “theme and variations”, “trio”, et. al. 

While there were other forms of composition in the Classical Era, usually, but not always, when the movement of a classical music piece isn’t designated by which form it has used to compose it, the structure of the piece will be in sonata form.

The sonata form consists of three different sections.  Like a book or a speech that has a beginning, middle and end, so does a classical movement in the sonata form.  The three parts are called exposition, development and recapitulation.  

1. Exposition is the beginning of the movement or piece of music, with a theme or themes introduced.  These theme[s] will be developed and define the character of the movement/or piece. 

2. After the exposition comes the development.  This could be considered like the middle of the movement.  This could develop the original theme or begin a completely new theme.  As the exposition defines the character of the movement, you could consider the middle part developing the character.

3. The final section [and ending of the movement or piece of music] of the sonata form is recapitulation.  This means that the music will return to the opening of the exposition.  It will sound like the movement is starting all over again and the exposition is being replayed.

So, I like to say in a piece or movement of music using the sonata form [structure], you will hear a beginning, then a middle, and then back to the beginning. 

Here are some great pieces of classical music that use the sonata form of composition. Please turn up the volume and see if you can detect the exposition, development and then recapitulation in their structure.

I will give you the first one [Mozart Clarinet Quintet-Larghetto]: The exposition is about the beginning to the 2 minute mark; then the Development is about 2:09-3:25; and the recapitulation is about 3:30 -5:30. Also, in the second video, the exposition begins after the introduction by the orchestra [tutti] and after the recapitulation will be a solo cadenza by the pianist.

W.A. Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A-Major, Movement 2, Larghetto:

Franz Joseph Haydn: Piano Concerto in D Major, Movement 1, Vivace:

Franz Joseph Haydn: String quartet #3 in G Minor, “The Rider”, Movement 4, Allegro con Brio:

Felix Mendelssohn: String Octet in E-Flat MAJOR, MOVEMENT 1, ALLEGRO MODERATO:

I hope you enjoyed some beautiful music from Mozart, Haydn, and Mendelssohn composed in the sonata form. Thank you for listening.

Mozart Brings Out the Beauty of the Oboe

One of my favorite composers, the quintessential Classical era composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is known for his virtuosity on the piano and violin.  His many great compositions for the piano and violin reveal his knowledge in those instruments.  But it is not just the violin and piano that Mozart knew well.  He could bring out the beauty of many instruments that are used in the symphonic orchestra.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [Jan. 27, 1756 – Dec. 5, 1791]

For example, I believe Mozart was the first composer to utilize the clarinet in the classical orchestra.  It is because of his wonderful clarinet concerto and his clarinet quintet that I became a huge fan of the clarinet, and in fact name that instrument, along with the piano, as my favorites.

Mozart once said he was not a big fan of the flute, but that did not stop him from composing a great concerto for the flute.

Mozart was also able to bring out the beauty of the Oboe.  He showed his knowledge and the ability to bring out the best in this instrument with his Oboe Concerto in C Major and in one of my favorite chamber music pieces of all, his Oboe Quartet in F Major. This quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello is exquisitely beautiful and soothing and the Oboe oozes a sunny happiness in this piece.  

Mozart’s extraordinary Adagio movement of the “Gran Partita” for winds, brings out the beauty of not just the oboe, but of all the wind instruments that he uses in this piece.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy how Mozart was able to bring out the beauty of the Oboe.

W.A. Mozart: Oboe Concerto in C Major:

W.A. Mozart: Oboe Quartet in F Major:

W.A. Mozart: ‘Gran Partita’ for Winds, Movement 3, Adagio: