Composer Spotlight: Chevalier de Saint-Georges

Composer Spotlight Elen Rideal Saint-Georges 


Spotlight on Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Overture to L'Amant anonyme

Elen Hâf Rideal, Co-Principal Second Violin of the RPO, says: ‘It's been such a treat to play Saint-Georges’ Overture to L’Amant anonyme. It was an unfamiliar work to me but one I really enjoyed playing. It's such a fresh, spritely piece where a real clarity and energy is required in its performance. The charm and lyrical simplicity of the second movement is beautiful, although I personally enjoyed playing the first movement for its elegance and joyfulness. Saint-Georges was not only a conductor, composer and virtuoso violinist, but also the best swordsman in France! You get a real sense of his athletic agility and verve performing this work!’



Born on the French colony and Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe in 1745, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was a polymath who was known for being a supremely accomplished composer, violinist, conductor, soldier and fencer. A duellist who became a knight in King Louis’ private guard, he later became a musician in the court of Marie Antoinette and a favourite of the French aristocracy. He enjoyed teaching, performing and composing in Paris, with an output that included six operas, all lost bar one, twelve violin concertos, two symphonies and a wealth of chamber music.

It is said that Mozart, his contemporary, was deeply envious of his achievements and high status. Ideas from Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, written a year after the two composers met, can be traced back to Saint-Georges’ own Sinfonia Concertante, and it is alleged that the Black villain Monostatos in Mozart’s The Magic Flute is modelled on Saint-Georges.

 More music to explore…

Discover more of his virtuosity with Violin Concerto in A Major, Op.5, No.2 and Les 10 sonates pour clavecin.

Hear Saint-Georges’ Overture to L'amant anonyme in our Spotlight Series at Home concert, available until Wednesday 21 April, 7.30pm on our YouTube channel.

Discover other composers featured in the Spotlight Series here.