Monsieur de Saint-George: Virtuoso, Swordsman, Revolutionary: A Legendary Life Rediscovered

Monsieur de Saint-George: Virtuoso, Swordsman, Revolutionary: A Legendary Life Rediscovered

by Alain Guede
     
 

The first full biography of one of the greatest figures of eighteenth-century Europe, known in his time as the "Black Mozart"

Virtually forgotten until now, his life is the stuff of legend. Born in 1739 in Guadeloupe to a slave mother and a French noble father, he became the finest swordsman of his age, an insider at the doomed court of Louis XVI, and,

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Overview

The first full biography of one of the greatest figures of eighteenth-century Europe, known in his time as the "Black Mozart"

Virtually forgotten until now, his life is the stuff of legend. Born in 1739 in Guadeloupe to a slave mother and a French noble father, he became the finest swordsman of his age, an insider at the doomed court of Louis XVI, and, most of all, a virtuosic musician. A violinist, he directed the Olympic Society of Concerts, which was considered the finest in Europe in an age of great musicians, including Haydn, from whom he commissioned a symphony, and Mozart, to whom he was often compared. He also became the first Freemason of color, embracing the French Revolution with the belief that it would end the racism against which—despite his illustrious achievements—he struggled his whole life. This is the life of Joseph Bologne, known variously as Monsieur de Saint-George, the “Black Mozart,” and, because of his origins, "the American." Alain Guédé offers a fascinating account of this extraordinary individual, whose musical compositions are at long last being revived and whose story will never again be forgotten.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Virtuoso, seducer, military man, revolutionary: the extraordinary life of the first black composer." —Le Monde

Library Journal
French journalist Guede has written a compelling and well-researched biography of a fascinating luminary of late 18th-century France-Monsieur de Saint-George-who has since fallen into obscurity. Born Joseph Bologne, he was the son of a wealthy French landowner in Guadeloupe and a Senegalese slave woman. Overcoming racial discrimination during the Age of Enlightenment, he became a darling of the court of Louis XVI yet retained passionate republican sentiments and made a name for himself as one of the premier swordsmen of Europe. Yet Guede's mission here is to convince the reader of his importance as a musician. In this, he is only partially successful. There is ample documentary evidence that Saint-George's skills as a violinist, conductor, and composer were highly regarded by his contemporaries; he was known as the "Voltaire of Music" and the "Black Mozart," though Mozart never mentioned him during his travels in Paris. Yet while Guede carefully chronicles Saint-George's successes and popularity, he offers little in the way of serious musical analysis. Included is a current discography but no list of works, an unfortunate omission. Nonetheless, this is recommended for general collections, if only for its masterly sweep of the sociopolitical world of the late 18th century and its harrowing accounts of the slave trade in the French colonies.-Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312309275
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
12/01/2003
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.11(d)

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