Other Mozart: The Life of the Famous Chevalier de Saint-George

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Overview

Joseph Bologne was one of the most famous men in 18th-century France. The son of a slave and a French nobleman in Guadaloupe, the ambitious Joseph moved to Paris, where he was christened the Chevalier de Saint George. During his extraordinary life, he conquered every limitation by becoming a champion swordsman, violin virtuoso, composer, and military commander in the French Revolution. From the plantations of the West Indies to the palace at Versailles, The Other Mozart details the true story of a remarkable man....
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Overview

Joseph Bologne was one of the most famous men in 18th-century France. The son of a slave and a French nobleman in Guadaloupe, the ambitious Joseph moved to Paris, where he was christened the Chevalier de Saint George. During his extraordinary life, he conquered every limitation by becoming a champion swordsman, violin virtuoso, composer, and military commander in the French Revolution. From the plantations of the West Indies to the palace at Versailles, The Other Mozart details the true story of a remarkable man. Illustrated by original paintings and archival materials, the Chevalier de Saint George's inspiring and affirming story lives on.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Brewster (Anastasia's Album) immerses readers in 18th-century France in this picture-book biography of little-known musician Joseph Bologne Saint-George (1745–1799). Famous for more than just his music, the man's drive and talents spurred him to greatness in other areas, such as fencing and military leadership. Born to an enslaved West Indian mother and a French aristocrat, Bologne spent his early childhood in Guadalupe and at age eight moved to Paris where his father, Georges de Bologne-Saint-George, granted him and his mother freedom. His father gave Joseph the title "the Chevalier de Saint-George," and later, "People even called Joseph 'le Mozart noir'—the black Mozart," for his musical genius. Valesquez's (The Sound That Jazz Makes) elegant paintings, framed in regal hues, depict the chevalier (who was a favorite musician of Marie Antoinette) at his many pursuits. One portrait of a confident, strong Joseph in a fencing stance, backed by an ominous gray sky, appears to be symbolic of the book's recurring theme of his ambition set against a backdrop of prejudice. Art reproductions and photos show places, people and artifacts from this era, and sidebars convey the history of some of these (e.g., a timeline of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution). These diversions can feel like interruptions to Joseph's story, but the end result is a fascinating story that plucks a remarkable man from obscurity. Ages 5-10. (Jan.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Amy Fiske
Born in 1745 on the island of Guadaloupe to a slave and a wealthy French landowner named Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George lived an extraordinary life. Raised an aristocrat in Paris, Saint-George received a top-class education, became a champion fencer, and excelled at violin and music composition. His musical prowess and reputation led to an invitation, which was the first of many, to Versailles to play music with Marie Antoinette. This connection to the queen did Saint-George few favors during the Revolution, and he was imprisoned for a year. Despite the trappings of privilege, Saint-George's life was marked by the poignancy of an outsider. Although his talents and achievements continued to open doors for him, his mixed racial heritage denied him full participation in European society. Brewster includes brief biographies of Marie Antoinette, Mozart, and Joseph Haydn, as well as a basic time line and description of the French Revolution, providing welcome historical context for readers. The bibliography and quotations indicate that Brewster has done his research; however, the short length of the book limits it to the biographic equivalent of a highlight reel. Saint-George's extraordinary accomplishments get top billing, while racism in France is glossed over and mention of Saint-George's political and social activism later in life is completely absent. What readers are left with is an easy, interesting read more suited to pleasure reading or perhaps as a companion volume to a more thorough treatment of revolutions or European history.
Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
Joseph was born in 1745 on Christmas Day in Guadeloupe in the West Indies. His father was Georges de Bologne-Saint-George, a wealthy plantation owner. Nanon, his mother, was a slave. Young Joseph lived in the slave quarters, but his father was fond of him and wanted him to be educated as a gentleman. He learned to read and write, to ride and shoot, and to play the violin. When Joseph was eight years old, his father sold his estate and moved to France. He took Nanon and Joseph with him, having signed the necessary papers to grant their freedom. As an official in the king's court, Georges was able to create a title for his son: Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-George (the equivalent of a knight in England). Joseph continued his education in the best schools. He became accomplished in riding, running, shooting, fencing, dancing, and music. He was a favorite of the ladies at dances and social gatherings, but he never married. Joseph was especially skilled in fencing and participated in several famous duels. His true calling, however, was music. He became the first violinist of the largest orchestra in Paris and, then, became the orchestra's conductor at the age of twenty-four. He began composing his own operas, which were performed before kings, queens, and other dignitaries. He was imprisoned during the French Revolution and was later sent as an envoy to the island of his birth (then renamed Haiti) where he narrowly escaped being killed. He returned to Paris and lived a quiet life until he died at the age of sixty. His music was rediscovered in recent years and lives on as a tribute to this remarkable man. Research aids include an author's note, a bibliography, a list of recommendeddiscs, and a glossary.
School Library Journal

Gr 4-8
This swashbuckling biography of a multitalented musician in Revolutionary France will leave readers wondering why they'd never heard of the man. Born into slavery in Haiti, Saint-George distinguished himself in France as a composer, violinist, swordsman, colonel, prisoner, diplomat-and even an accomplished ice skater. Brewster relies heavily on the only English-language biography of Saint-George to reconstruct his unusual life, but also recognizes more recent scholarship in his author's note and includes a detailed list of recommended resources in a variety of formats. Period reproductions and drawings appear throughout, but at the heart of the book is Velasquez's original artwork. His moody paintings capture Saint-George raising his baton to cue the orchestra or drawing back his sword to parry a blow. The book features mini-biographies of other musicians and detailed time lines of the French Revolution and the life of Marie Antoinette, making it the perfect complement to units on the French and American Revolutions. The engaging narrative supplies delicious detail about life in Europe in the late 1700s, and the elegant design makes it the kind of picture book that even high school students will pick up.
—Emily R. BrownCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Brewster introduces the multi-talented life of the man known to the French as Le Mozart Noir. Joseph Bologne was born in the West Indies in 1745 to a slave mother and plantation-owning father. He was well-schooled and given the title "chevalier" to prepare him for the move to the very critical French court. By age 13, Joseph went to an academic fencing school where he excelled in both fencing and music. He fenced with the Italian master Faldoni, and Queen Marie Antoinette asked him to play the violin with her at the keyboard. His talents were known and admired, yet Parisian society would not allow a mulatto to conduct the Opera nor be married to a noble woman. He did, however, become conductor of the Paris Orchestra, for which Haydn wrote six symphonies. Despite supporting the French Revolution, dropping his title and commanding troops, his connection to the court landed him in prison on false charges. Following the revolution, he was sent to Haiti to stop an uprising. This is a fascinating life laid out in clear writing that blends 16th-century history with his biography, as it combines wonderful historical and lush original art. (author's note, bibliography, quote and picture credits, glossary, discography) (Nonfiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810957206
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 5 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 1020L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.50 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

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