Symphonie Concertante in C major: Allegro by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges

Joseph Bologne (also spelt Boulogne) Chevalier de Saint Georges (1745 – 1799) was born in Guadeloupe, the son of a wealthy plantation owner and a slave. Bologne was the first known classical composer of African ancestry. At the age of seven his father took him to France where he was educated. Bologne became a virtuoso violinist and later wrote numerous compositions. He demonstrated great skill as a conductor, directing one of the leading orchestras in Paris, where he performed his own concertos and impressed the audiences with his improvisation ability. Not only was Joseph Bologne an accomplished musician but he was also admired for his sportsmanship – he was a keen horse rider and champion fencer.

Symphonie Concertante in C Major, Op. 9 No. 1: I. Allegro by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

Listen for…

  • Main melody consists of balanced, even phrases – played by the first violins
  • Elegant, lyrical style – typical of the classical period
  • At 01:11 listen out for the imitation of the ascending scalic figure, between upper and lower strings
  • Listen to the violin solo at 01:43 with light accompaniment from the rest of the orchestra
  • At 03:19 the violin trill signals the end of the solo passage

As you continue listening, can you identify where the main melody returns and at what point the music moves into a minor key?

Things to consider

  • The classical composers tended to write in two or four-bra phrases and often used a ‘question and answer’ style, where one part would ask the question and the second phrase would answer it. Can you have a go at composing your own musical conversation?
  • Think about the simplicity and elegance of Bologne’s writing – can you use this as a starting point for composing, challenging yourself to keep your music uncluttered and lyrical?