Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) was the first black violinist/composer of international repute and by all accounts an extraordinary figure. He was born in Guadalupe to a wealthy plantation owner and an enslaved African mother; the three traveled to Paris, where Joseph gained fame as a fencing master and was knighted. He was conductor of Le Concert Olympique, one of the leading European orchestras of the time, with whom he commissioned and premiered Haydn's Paris symphonies. He was also a virtuoso violinist, playing as soloist in all of his own concertos. He wrote twelve violin concertos, two symphonies, and some of the first symphonie-concertantes, predating Mozart's by several years (and perhaps inspiring its composition).
His chamber music shows influence from Haydn and includes many string quartets, six violin duets, and these three early sonatas for forte-piano and violin. Though small in scale, they show a modern conception of the sonata genre, employing multiple themes with sophisticated and inventive developments. They have long, flowing melodies and spacious, open textures, with keyboard writing that was ahead of its time. All three are presented here in a special, high-quality Artaria edition, edited by Allen Badley.
Three Sonatas for violin and piano, opus 1(b) by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
No. 1 in B-flat Major
- No. 2 in A Major
- No. 3 in G minor