Seattle, WA, November 3, 2022 – Early Music Seattle, celebrating its 45th year, is pleased to present the Seattle Baroque Orchestra: The World of Joseph Bologne at the acoustically magnificent Bastyr University Chapel in Kenmore on November 12 and at the historical Town Hall in Seattle on November 13.
The music explores the intimate side of Joseph Bologne’s oeuvre. While we include his Symphonie Concertante op. 13 no. 2 and Violin Concerto op. 8 no. 2 in G major, which would likely have been performed by a full orchestra in their day, the heart of our program is his lesser-known chamber works: a string quartet, piano quartet, and sonata for violin and piano which was originally written for the composer in duo with Marie Antoinette. They exhibit charm, brilliance, and structural integrity fully in league with the master composers of the late 18th century.
The phenomenal achievements of the violinist-composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-99) is something of a minor miracle given the circumstances of life in Europe in the 18th century. Joseph was born in Guadalupe, a Caribbean French sugar cane colony, to the planter George Bologne and Nanon, a woman he enslaved. Through a series of unlikely circumstances, the trio ended up in Paris where George took the position of aide to Louis XV. As a minor noble, he was able to arrange for young Joseph’s education in fencing, music, and the humanities. Excelling in all his pursuits but especially music, Joseph demonstrated brilliance in composition, violin, and harpsichord. He eventually rose to direct Le Concert Olympique, the ensemble that commissioned Haydn’s Paris Symphonies in 1787. Ten years later he became the director of Le Cercle de L’Harmonie and eventually music director for the Marquise de Montesson. He performed alongside the great musicians and historical figures of his day, including the singer/harpist/harpsichordist Marie Antoinette.
Joseph Bologne experienced racial discrimination that set limits to his career path. The Code Noir, a proclamation issued by Louis XV in support of slave owners, forced people of African descent to register with the Admiralty and made it impossible for them to assume titles or be appointed to the nobility. These restrictions, along with the prejudice of specific individuals in French cultural life, made it impossible for Joseph to reap the full benefits due to a person of his talents and abilities. With this concert, Early Music Seattle celebrates the achievements of Joseph Bologne as we work for a future of more inclusivity in early music.