Saturday, May 6, 2023

Mozart and the Chevalier de Saint George

The Internet has caught on to that I love classical music. And so I have happened upon things related to the 18th century musician who had the beautiful name of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint George.

One of these things is the movie preview up above. 

It makes me want to scream.

I do admire the Chevalier as an exemplary man of his age. He was a fencer, a marksman, a violinist, a composer, a dancer, a glamorous figure.

However as the movie preview shows, there is this agenda attached to him, to tear down Mozart, to blame Mozart for various things that never happened. As if history is a zero sum game.

It is said that the Chevalier de Saint-George taught Mozart, that Mozart was his student. That is not true.

In the preview up above, you see Mozart screaming "Who the f--- is that?" after hearing Saint-George play. That never happened.

Also in the movie preview, you notice that the filmmakers have Saint-George playing in a modern 21st century style, nothing like the 18th century. Even without knowing anything about the particulars that would clue you in that this story has more than a touch of fiction.

This is all a shame and does dishonor to the real Chevalier.

He was, by all accounts, a noble figure of his era. He lived an epic life which included royal honors. And he was an accomplished musician. 

If his compositions are not as well known as Mozart's, there is a reason for that, and it is the same reason we hear little of most of the music written by Mozart's contemporaries. They are not the equal of Mozart's. It has nothing to do with race. Mozart was a freak of nature.

Music, furthermore, was not the Cavalier's only goal. Joseph Bologne put time and talent into becoming a champion fencer and marksman, along with mastering other pursuits. All Mozart did was music. Mozart's only teacher was his father -- he grew up living and breathing music. There was no fencing or -- well, Mozart did some target shooting, which was popular in Salzburg, but there is no evidence that he distinguished himself in that sport.

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint George, had a difference balance to his life. He had different and more diversified goals. He soared like an eagle and achieved those goals -- and then some, as we say here in Buffalo. He became a kind of Renaissance man. He was a lot of things that Mozart was not.

There is a lot to admire in the Chevalier de Saint George, and as we marvel at his full and trailblazing life, we should never do that at Mozart's expense. Something tells me that the Chevalier would hate that. 

A musician himself, Joseph Bologne knew quality. A gentleman, he valued justice, fairness, and truth. I would love to think that he and Mozart sat down and had a glass of wine as friends. 

I can imagine both these fine gentlemen looking down on us now, shaking their heads.