- The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow
Historians continue to discover aspects of vitality in French Caribbean society of the eighteenth century. Gabriel Banat has written a detailed biography of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the mulatto born in Guadeloupe who migrated to Paris to become a leading fencer, violinist, and composer. Himself a violinist, Banat employs copious archival research to show how the son of a French planter marshaled intelligence and social savvy to become music director of a major orchestral series and move among the highest nobility. Saint-Georges [End Page 500] earned considerable respect for his compositions and drew literary attention in the following century. Banat’s rich description of how Saint-Georges found his way in high society suggests that the urbanization of French elites in the capital city enabled an unusual case of upward social mobility.
William Weber is the author of Music and the Middle Class: The Social Structure of Concert Life in London, Paris, and Vienna, 1830–1848 and The Rise of Musical Classics: A Study in Canon, Ritual, and Ideology. He is professor emeritus of modern European history at California State University, Long Beach.