Post Date: 02/07/2022
Ars Lyrica Houston, the Grammy-nominated early music ensemble, continues their innovative Turning Points season with their first in-person performance of 2022, An Uncommon Chevalier, on March 27th. This concert features two of America’s leading baroque violinists, Cynthia Roberts and Elizabeth Blumenstock, playing Bologne and Mozart’s sparkling violin concertos. The program concludes with Haydn’s spirited “The Hen” symphony, commissioned by Bologne himself. Together, these pieces transport the audience back to a lively Parisian concert hall in the mid 1780s.
While Mozart and Haydn may be greater household names, the eminent Chevalier de Saint-Georges offered equally significant contributions to the classical repertoire. Joseph Bologne, son of a Guadeloupe plantation owner and his African slave, grew up in Paris to be an accomplished composer, violinist, and fencer. At the end of his studies, he was awarded a position in Marie-Antoinette’s Court and given the title Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Although often referred to as the “Black Mozart,” Bologne was actually eleven years Mozart’s senior, and there is evidence suggesting that Bologne influenced Mozart’s compositions. Both Mozart’s famous third violin concerto and Bologne’s lesser-known, but equally delightful, first violin concerto, will be performed on period instruments, resulting in an exquisite combination of sounds both familiar and new.
Finishing the program is Haydn’s “Paris” Symphony No. 83 in G Minor, affectionately referred to as “The Hen” for the clucking-like sounds of the first movement’s theme. Some of Haydn’s most famous works, the Paris symphonies were actually commissioned by Chevalier de Saint-Georges himself and provided Haydn his first opportunity to compose on his own terms for a larger orchestra.
“We haven’t yet performed a piece by Joseph Bologne, so this is a great chance to spotlight one of his violin concertos and to really build a program around his activities in Paris,” says Artistic Director and Conductor Matthew Dirst. “The Haydn “Paris” Symphonies were written for a public concert series in Paris. And the Bologne concerto ran for several years. So one can certainly put both the concertos and the symphony together, as being a quintessential kind of Parisian music from the late 18th century.”
This event is part of the French Cultures Festival coordinated by the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston.
On the program
Joseph de Bologne, Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 3, No. 1
W. A. Mozart, Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216
Joseph Haydn, “Paris” Symphony No. 83 in G minor (“The Hen”)
About Ars Lyrica Houston
Founded in 1998 by harpsichordist and conductor Matthew Dirst, Ars Lyrica Houston presents a diverse array of music in its original context while creating connections to contemporary life. Intelligent programming features neglected gems alongside familiar masterworks, and extracts the dramatic potential, emotional resonance, and expressive power of music. Its local subscription series, according to the Houston Chronicle, “sets the agenda” for early music in Houston. Ars Lyrica appears regularly at international festivals and conferences because of its distinctive focus, and its pioneering efforts in the field of authentic performance have won international acclaim.