Joseph Bologne

French Violinist, Composer and Conductor • Born December 25, 1745, Bailiff, Guadeloupe • Died June 10, 1799, Paris, France • European Classical

Fast Facts

  • Saint-Georges was of mixed race; his father was a Noble French plantation owner in Guadeloupe, and his mother was enslaved, a Senegalese from Africa.  
  • When Saint-Georges was 10 years old, his family moved from Guadeloupe to Paris, France. There Saint-Georges was given the finest schooling in academics, music and sports.  
  • Saint-Georges was an exceptional athlete: a runner, skater, dancer, marksman, horseman and swimmer and he gained fame all over Europe as a fencing master.  
  • Saint-Georges was a violin virtuoso, composer and conductor and was considered one of the most talented musicians of his time. He was the first composer of African heritage to write “classical” music.  
  • Saint-Georges wrote more than 236 pieces including eight operas, ten violin concertos, and 115 other songs; his works had a big impact on the music of his day. 
  • In France, he was given many opportunities as the son of a nobleman but also faced discrimination in his conducting career because he was bi-racial.
  • Saint-Georges’ unique style of writing using the French Symphonie Concertante, which features two or three soloists contrasting with full orchestra, is said to have influenced Mozart after his visit to Paris in 1778.  
  • Saint-George interacted with many important people of his day including royalty, composers and noblemen. Several composers had such a high regard for him that they wrote songs for him or dedicated their pieces to him.
  • Later in life, Saint-Georges became commander of a colored regiment in the French Revolution and led many battles. 
  • Saint-Georges died due to complications of a kidney condition.

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