Joseph Bologne, or the chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) was an classical composer and champion fencer; he was the son of a plantation owner and a slave, Anne, known as "Nanon." His father took Joseph to France when he was a child in order to receive an education, then later brought Joseph's mother to France and set the pair up in an apartment so that Joseph could continue his studies in France. Despite the racist laws limiting the freedoms of non-white people living in France, the chevalier de Saint-Georges became beloved in various high circles for his champion fencing skills, musical compositions, and his charming wit, intelligence and personality.
He became acquainted with Marie Antoinette, who advocated for him when the position of director to the Paris Opera needed to be filled. Unfortunately, racism overcame his potential appointment: several actresses and others working for the Paris Opera signed a petition addressing the queen, saying that they would not accept orders from "a mulatto." The petition was publicly published and the chevalier de Saint-Georges withdrew his bid for director, noting that he did not want to cause the queen any scandal. Marie Antoinette continued to invite him to her private salon, where they would play together along with a small group of her favorites.
The chevalier de Saint-Georges composed several operas along with symphonic work and other pieces intended for private performance. Only one of his operas has survived in full, although a few vocal pieces survived from his other operas due to their popularity.
The above is a performance of his Sonata no.2 in A major. II. Andantino - Allegro Minore, as performed by Quinton Morris on the violin and Li-Tan Hsu on the piano.
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