Joseph Boulogne was one of the most brilliant composers and violinists in France — and a person of color. Still, he was a prominent and influential musical figure in 1770s Paris. He was renowned as a conductor, performer, and composer.
Boulogne was an extraordinary violinist, and composed fourteen concertos for himself to perform. He also wrote four symphony concertantes, featured on this release.
The relationship between Boulogne and Mozart isn’t clear. But there is a clear relationship between their musical styles. Boulogne’s music has the stately elegance of Mozart’s. Themes are distinctive, and well-developed throughout the compositions.
The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice has recorded many Classical Era composers. And their performances here are all I expected. The music is light but not slight. The ensemble plays with both accuracy and energy.
The sinfonia concertantes mostly feature two solo violins (one includes a viola). Yuvy Revich and Libor Jezek are the violin soloists. They give a good account of the music and a hint of what Boulogne’s own playing may have sounded like.
Also included is the first of Boulogne’s two Opus 11 symphonies. To me, the work seemed closer to Haydn than Mozart. I later read that the symphony may be spurious. Perhaps so. It does seem a little out character compared to the rest of the album.
Nevertheless, making more of Boulogne’s music available is always a good thing. This isn’t just well-crafted music by a composer of color. It’s well-crafted music. Period.
Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Symphonies concertantes; Symphony in G major
Yury Revich, Libor Jezek, violins; Pavla Hansova, viola
Czech Chamber Orchestra Pardubice; Michael Halasz, conductor