Joseph Bologne: Three Sonatas for Violin & Fortepiano, Op. 1b

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Violinist Andrew McIntosh and fortepianist Steven Vanhauwaert collaborated on a historically important volume of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges's Op. 1b sonatas on Olde Focus Recordings. Interest in Bologne's music has surged in recent years, exposing contemporary audiences to his refined catalogue. These works were published in 1781 during the height of his career, are in two movements each, and reflect Bologne's grounding in the elegant range of late 18th century aesthetics.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 43:11

Sonata No. 1 in Bb Major

01I. Allegro
I. Allegro
02II. Tempo di Menuetto
II. Tempo di Menuetto

Sonata No. 2 in A Major

03I. Allegro moderato
I. Allegro moderato
04II. Andantino–Allegro minore
II. Andantino–Allegro minore

Sonata No. 3 in G Minor

05I. Allegro
I. Allegro
06II. Rondo gracioso
II. Rondo gracioso

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), was a 19th century polymath, reflected both in his extensive contributions to the musical community of the era but extending as well to his non-musical pursuits. A prominent violinist, composer, and conductor, Bologne was the director of the well known Le Concert Olympique, the orchestra that commissioned and premiered Haydn’s “Paris” Symphonies. He was a celebrated swordsman and decorated in the military during the French Revolution, leading an all-Black regiment for the revolutionary cause.

On this collection, violinist Andrew McIntosh and fortepianist Steven Vanhauwaert perform Bologne’s Op. 1b Violin Sonatas, written in 1781 at the height of his career. Each is in a two movement form with an opening Allegro and second movements that vary from a Minuet to a Rondo to a multi-tempo movement. McIntosh and Vanhauwaert bring an informed approach to these scores whose early published editions often leave a fair amount of information open with respect to dynamics and articulations. As such, the two apply a performance practice of ornamentation that is consistent with the style of the era. Throughout, they play with elegant lightness and sensitivity, highlighting the dramatic moments with power tempered by requisite restraint.

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Sonata No. 1 in Bb Major opens with a graceful melody in duple meter that unfolds with characteristic soloist and accompanist roles for the violin and keyboard. A surprising series of accents in minor seconds in the piano accompany a chopping descending figure in the violin and lend the movement some tart humor. The “Tempo di Menuetto” is in a lilting tempo, and fortepiano solos introduce the primary thematic material before the violin echoes it.

Sonata No. 2 in A Major begins with an “Allegro moderato” in a flowing tempo that allows for fleet figuration traded between the instruments at faster divisions of the pulse. Minor second double stops appear again in the piano accompaniment as an intensification. The harmonic road map of the development ventures further afield than in the first movement of Sonata No. 1. The “Andantino-Allegro minore” starts with a simple, innocent melody, eventually transitioning to the more rhapsodic minor theme as a contrasting B section to the movement.

Sonata No. 3 is the only of the set that is in a minor key, though after a brief statement of the opening declamatory statement in G minor, the piece quickly moves to the relative major, where it spends the majority of the exposition section. Bologne uses sequences to cycle through several key areas during developmental sections of the movement. The “Rondo gracioso” is in major from the outset however, in a light, dancing triple meter, with a characteristic appoggiatura figure on the tritone of the key up to the fifth scale degree in the second half of the theme, in which we hear Vanhauwaert slyly play minor second double stops in the accompaniment in the final statement of the Rondo. McIntosh and Vanhauwaert have made an important contribution to the discography of Bologne’s violin works, charming pieces which will surely find themselves into recital programs in coming years.

– Dan Lippel

Recorded and edited by Steven Vanhauwaert

Mixing by Andrew McIntosh
Mastering and additional mixing by Ryan Streber at Oktaven Audio

Recorded at the Contrapuntal Recital Hall in Brentwood, CA on September 19, 2020 and May 8-9, 2021

Cover design by Amy I Productions

Andrew McIntosh

Andrew McIntosh is a Grammy-nominated violinist, violist, composer, and baroque violinist who teaches at the California Institute of the Arts, with a wide swath of musical interests ranging from historical performance practice of the Baroque era to improvisation, microtonal tuning systems, and the 20th-century avant-garde. As a baroque performer McIntosh is a member of Tesserae, Bach Collegium San Diego, and Musica Angelica. As a chamber musician he is a member of the Formalist Quartet, Wild Up, and Wadada Leo Smith’s Red Koral Quartet, with whom he recently recorded a 7-CD box set of Smith’s String Quartets 1-12. He has worked personally with a wide range of composers including Christian Wolff, Sofia Gubaidulina, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Helmut Lachenmann, Tom Johnson, and Jürg Frey. As a composer he often works with forms and ideas found in nature or in other artistic disciplines, working in instrumental, vocal, and fixed media forms, and was described by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as “a composer preternaturally attuned to the landscapes and soundscapes of the West". His compositions have been featured at venues including Walt Disney Concert Hall, Ojai Festival, the Gaudeamus Festival, and recent commissions include works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Industry opera company, Yarn/Wire, the Calder Quartet, and violinists Ilya Gringolts, Movses Pogossian, Lorenz Gamma, and Marco Fusi.

Steven Vanhauwaert

Hailed by the Los Angeles Times for his "impressive clarity, sense of structure and monster technique", Steven Vanhauwaert has garnered a wide array of accolades, amongst which is the First Prize at the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition. Vanhauwaert has appeared as a soloist at the National Center of the Performing Arts in Beijing, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, the Concertgebouw in Brugge, and the National Philharmonic Hall in Kiev. He has appeared with orchestras including the Pacific Symphony, the Lviv Philharmonic, the Guayaquil Symphony Orchestra, the Reno Chamber Orchestra, the International Chamber Orchestra of Puerto Rico, the Flemish Symphony, and the Kyiv Kamerata.

He has recorded on the Hortus, Sonarti, ECM, and Bridge labels; and several of his albums have received 5 diapasons in France. He serves as Assistant Professor on the faculty at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Steven Vanhauwaert is a Steinway Artist.




A composer of Haydn’s time, working in Classical style, who is now nearly as obscure as Kirchner, is Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799). He is primarily remembered today because he was biracial and free – illegitimate, but acknowledged by his wealthy white father and given his father’s last name. Saint-Georges was appointed by King Louis XVI as a royal guardsman and joined the National Guard in Lille after the French Revolution – but was imprisoned for 11 months during the Reign of Terror because of his royal connections. He was so well thought of in musical circles that he was sometimes called the Black Mozart – yet his music is almost unknown today. A short but well-made Olde Focus Recordings offering of three of Saint-Georges’ sonatas for violin and fortepiano at least makes it possible to hear 43 minutes’ worth of his work and will likely whet listeners’ appetite for more. The release includes three two-movement sonatas published in 1781, and is greatly helped by being played in period style on the instruments for which the music was written – there is a very distinctive sound to the baroque violin that is missing in more-modern instruments, and (even more to the point) the fortepiano is so different from the modern piano, so much closer to the harpsichord in many ways, that the blending of string instrument and keyboard in these works is nothing like what it would be if a modern piano were to be used. All three of these sonatas have longer and faster first movements followed by briefer not-quite-as-quick second movements: nothing here is really slow and there is no attempt to delve into anything emotive, much less deep. The first sonata is in B-flat, the second in A, and the third, interestingly, in G minor – although it moves quickly to the relative major and spends most of its time there. The pieces are excellently balanced, written very idiomatically for both instruments, and clearly show Saint-Georges to have been adept with the musical forms of his time – albeit without doing anything to expand or transform them, as Haydn and Mozart did. Andrew McIntosh and Steven Vanhauwaert are truly excellent advocates for this music, playing it with assurance and conviction and bringing out the sonatas’ many charms. It would be stretching things to say that this is important music – neither are Kirchner’s miniatures or Haydn’s baryton trios – but certainly more works by Saint-Georges would be worth hearing, and in fact the biggest criticism of this CD is that it is over much too soon. Hopefully there will be more to come from McIntosh and Vanhauwaert, and more chances to explore and enjoy Saint-Georges’ obvious compositional skills.

— Mark Estren, 12.23.2023

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