An 18th century composer with a demeaning nickname is being recognized with an album reissue.
While being called “Black Mozart” may have been intended as a compliment, it arguably diminishes Bologne’s individual and cultural contributions to classical music.
Tafelmusik has announced they will digitally reissue a 2003 recording devoted to polymath Joseph Bologne. They have recognized that the original title Le Mozart Noir does not “properly [centre] the composer’s achievements”— and will be changing the name to The Music of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges.
The reissue will include new album artwork by Toronto painter Gordon Shadrach and an essay by American conductor and Bologne scholar Marlon Daniel.
Saint-Georges was the son of a wealthy plantation owner and his mistress, an enslaved woman on the plantation in Guadeloupe. He confronted enormous adversities around class and race throughout his life. His work fits squarely into the classical period style, and includes string quartets, orchestral works, and operas.
Polymath fencer, violin virtuoso, conductor, composer…
- He was first noted as a fencing champion in France. There’s even a painting depicting a match between Bologne and the Chevalier d’Éon on display at Buckingham Palace.
- John Adams described him as “the most accomplished man in Europe in riding, shooting, fencing, dancing and music.”
- Mozart once stayed under the same roof as Saint-Georges in 1778 at an event in Paris hosted by Count Sickingen. Some say Mozart was jealous of him, writing him in as the Black character Monostatos in The Magic Flute.
- He served in the court of Marie Antoinette, and it was alleged he was fired because they got “too close”.
- He eventually rose to the pinnacle of Parisian society and is regarded as an important cultural hero.
Tafelmusik will present an online panel discussion about the music of Saint-Georges at 7 p.m. ET on May 19, 2021.
The Music of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges will be available on digital platforms starting June 18.
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