The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow

The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow

The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow

The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow

Excerpt

Early in my career as a violinist I developed a strong interest in expanding my repertoire. Striving to reach beyond conventional programming of “great masterworks” and the obligatory virtuoso showpieces, I found enormous satisfaction in performing the works of the major twentieth-century composers. I commissioned and introduced the compositions of some of my own colleagues. Later, before the interest in “original” instruments and authentic performance practices became widespread, I returned to the past to explore the vast repertoire of forgotten works of the baroque and early classical periods. It was during one of my early forays into libraries, attics, and cellars that I came across a symphonie concertante of freshness and charm, scored for two violins and orchestra, by an eighteenth-century composer with the intriguing name of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges.

Some years later, one of my former violin students, who was then a senior editor for a large New York publishing firm, suggested that we assemble a collection of works of “lesser known” violinistcomposers. This project became Masters of the Violin, consisting of six facsimile volumes of original editions, each devoted to a specific French, Italian, or German composer from the late seventeenth or eighteenth centuries.

The particular Saint-Georges score that had caught my attention at the time was, if memory serves, that of a single work excerpted from Professor Barry Brook’s ground-breaking tome, The French Symphony in the Second Half of the 18 Century. Though I had only scanned the pages of that particular score while standing in the stacks of the library, it evidently made a lasting impression on me, because years later, when it was time to select the composers for the series, I promptly started a search for additional Saint-Georges compositions to make up a volume of his own.

Banat, Gabriel, ed., Masters of the Violin (New York: Johnson Reprint, 1980–81).

Brook, Barry S., La Symphonie française dans la seconde moitié du 18e siècle (Paris: Institut de Musicologie de l’Université de Paris, 1962), III.

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