Meet the Composer: Chevalier de Saint-Georges

CN thumbnail Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges

Age Range: Elementary

Introduction: Composers write music, just like authors write books. In the Class Notes “Meet the Composer” series, we will learn a little bit about the achievements, backstory, and influences of a variety of composers. Get ready to learn about these influential composers and listen to some of their music.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan and Visual Aids: Chevalier Saint-Georges


Joseph Bologne (buh-LOHN) was born in 1745 on the French island of Guadelupe in the Caribbean Sea. His French father owned a plantation and his Senegalese mother was an enslaved worker there. Around the age of 7, Joseph moved to France to attend school. He became a master at fencing, horse-riding, playing the violin, conducting, and composing.  

He served in the military, earning him the title “Chevalier”, which is a term like “knight” or “officer” in the army. Saint-Georges was a part of his father’s title, so Joseph Bologne became known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges (shuh-VAH-lee-ay duh sahn ZHORZH).  

Chevalier de Saint-Georges was well-known in the military and musical circles of Revolutionary-era France. As someone of mixed race living during a time when slavery was common, he faced considerable discrimination. He was one of the pioneers of the musical form symphony concertantes, which features two soloists accompanied by an orchestra. He died in Paris at age 53.  

Older students might enjoy learning more from this short video about the fascinating life of Chevalier de Saint-Georges.  


Chevalier de Saint-Georges' music is a good example of the Classical era in classical music. Notice the difference between capital “C” and small “c”. Small “c” classical music describes all classical music; the Classical era (with a capital “c”) was a period between about 1750-1820. Here are a few of his pieces to give you a sense of his style. 

  1. Music from the Classical era often includes a clear melody together with an accompaniment pattern. Notice the balance of melody and accompaniment in this piece.

  2. Chevalier de Saint-Georges wrote quite a bit of vocal music. Here is an aria, or a solo, from one of his operas.  

  3. Remember that Chevalier de Saint-Georges was an accomplished violinist. Here is a sampling of his music for solo violin and piano. Notice how the violin part and the piano part trade off like two people have a conversation, sometimes echoing what the other says.  


  1. The musical form of theme and variations was popular during Chevalier de Saint-Georges' lifetime. Use the What is THEME AND VARIATION lesson to learn about this form and compose your own theme and variations.  

  2. Chevalier de Saint-Georges wrote opera. Compose your own mini-opera using the What is OPERA? (Part Two) lesson.  

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