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COMPOSERS: Saint-Georges
WORKS: Violin Concerto in C, Op. 5/1; Violin Concerto in A, Op. 5/2; Violin Concerto in G, Op. 8
PERFORMER: Takako Nishizaki (violin); Cologne CO/Helmut Müller-Brühl
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555040
The Guadeloupe-born Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-99), was a polymath extraordinaire, combining careers as musician, athlete (he was reputedly the finest swordsman in Europe), huntsman and – less successfully – military commander. When not managing the Duc d’Orléans’s hunting retinue, he played a key role in the Parisian musical scene of the 1770s and 1780s, as violinist, composer and founder-director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique which premiered Haydn’s six Paris symphonies. Though not primarily display pieces (Saint-Georges was renowned more for his ‘expressiveness’ than his virtuosity), these three concertos are more demanding technically than Mozart’s, frequently taking the soloist up to the highest positions. They make agreeable, stress-free listening, though for all their amiability the first movements expose Saint-Georges’s constricted harmonic vocabulary and fondness for immediately repeating his four-bar phrases verbatim. But the chevalier shows an appealing lyric gift in the aria-like slow movements and the graceful – and typically Gallic – Rondeau finales, especially the refined minuet in the C major concerto from Op. 5 (shades here of Mozart’s A major Concerto, K219). If the performances could at times be lighter on their feet, they are more than acceptable, with neat, assured solo playing and polished orchestral support. Richard Wigmore