Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bowby Gabriel Banat
The Chevalier de Saint-Georges, born Joseph Bologne, was the son of an African slave and a French plantation owner on the island of Guadeloupe. The story of his improbable rise in French society, his life as a famous fencer, celebrated violinist-composer and conductor, and later commander of a colored regiment in the French Revolution, should, on the facts alone, gladden the heart of the most passionate romance novelist. Yet, the information disseminated about this illustre inconnu is found in an extravagant nineteenth-century novel, which contains more fiction than fact. Unfortunately, many of the author?s flights of fancy have found their way into serious works about Saint-Georges. Gabriel Banat has set about systematically dispelling the confusion, for the real story is easily as fascinating as any flight of fancy. Gabriel Banat has been a professional violinist all his life; recitalist and member of the New York Philharmonic, he has systematically scoured the violin repertory for interesting and even unknown music. He came across the works of St. Georges and was fascinated by the freshness and charm of these 18th-century compositions. Eventually, he edited a critical edition of all the violin music and, inevitably, began a systematic investigation into the life of this intriguing and multifaceted individual, utilizing archives of the French Land Army, official clippings and untapped personal diaries of St. Georges? contemporaries. Banat is the author of an authoritative monograph on St. Georges in the Black Music Research Journal.
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This book is far more than a biography. One would be hard pressed to find an adventure novel more captivating than the factual story of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Born in 1745 in Guadeloupe, son of a French planter and his young African slave and educated in France, his amazing skill in fencing and talent as a violin virtuoso earned him, in spite of his color, a distinguished place in French society. He never turned his back on his African ancestors and though welcomed at the French Court, he eventually joined the French Revolution, hoping that it would end slavery. Based on rigorous scholarly research, Gabriel Banat¿s book presents a vivid description of the social and historical background of that colorful period in France, as well as the adventurous life of its extraordinary hero. The book is not only informative but is also an exciting read. Enhanced by numerous illustrations, reproductions of original documents, and musical examples, it brings to life a fascinating individual as well as his turbulent era. No wonder the NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS called it ¿a fascinating biography¿¿
The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow is the biography of Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), the illegitimate son of a French planter and a young African slave. Educated in France, his skill in fencing and amazing talent as a violin virtuoso earned him a distinguished place in French high society and the court of Versailles yet he was not content to simply bask in court life, choosing to support the abolitionist movement, take part in the Haitian slave revolt, and join the French Revolution in the hope of ending slavery. Considered the first classical composer of African descent, his music is best understood in the context of his vivid life. Black-and-white photographs, illustrations, and sample scores, and reproductions of primary source documents round out this in-depth study of a singularly remarkable musician, politician, and fighter.