A Scots university has announced plans to create a  new course honouring the ‘forgotten legacy’ of the Baroque composer who was controversially hailed the ‘Black Mozart’.

The son of an African slave and wealthy plantation owner, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges was considered the finest musician of his age.

However, racism almost erased the virtuoso violinist and composer from history after his death from gangrene on June 10 1799 and prevented him rising to the ranks of his peers during his lifetime.

Bologne commanded a reputation that, some scholars believe, even fired up the jealousy of his younger contemporary Mozart.


He performed at the royal court alongside Marie Antoinette, his pupil, and led the premieres of Haydn symphonies commissioned for one of Europe’s leading orchestras.

Interest in the long-ignored legacy of the 18th-century figure has finally begun to reawaken thanks to a new full-length biopic, Chevalier, starring Kelvin Harrison, Jr, which will be released to cinemas in the Summer and was premiered at the Glasgow Film Theatre. 

His works are also increasingly being seen on classical music concert programmes around the world and university degree programmes.

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Aberdeen University, which offers degree and postgraduate music courses, is developing a new course on global music history which will educate students about  Joseph Bologne’s fascinating life and legacy.

A spokeswoman said “Our curriculum is regularly reviewed and refreshed to provide new experiences and challenges for our students. 


“This review provides an opportunity to expand the wide range of music studied to include the work of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a fine musician whose work as a composer, violinist and orchestra leader was recognised during his lifetime and is now being rediscovered.”

The University of Glasgow said the composer’s works were already being “taught and performed” by students.

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She added: “Our music students learn about Saint-Georges’ work and examples from his music are discussed as part of the Musical Techniques Intermediate, which is compulsory for BMus and optional for MA. 

“Saint-Georges is also mentioned in lectures and tutorials dealing with issues of music historiography and the shaping of the Western canon, at undergraduate and postgraduate level.”


Professor John Butt, Gardiner Professor of Music at the university will be conducting Saint-Georges’ Sinfonia Concertante in F, Op. 10/4 next month in Oregon in the USA.

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The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and University of Edinburgh did not respond when asked if students were taught about Saint-Georges’ work.

Born in Guadeloupe to a French colonial plantation owner and a young Senegalese slave, Bologne was taken to Paris at a young age to gain an education

Before he burst on the scene as a dazzling virtuoso performing his own violin concertos, the teenaged Bologne was becoming an internationally admired fencing champion. 

He caught the attention of King Louis XV, who named him a chevalier. In later years, Bologne, by then involved in the French Revolution, was made colonel of an all-Black regiment.

However, experts say none of these achievements prevented him from not being recognized as fully equal to his white peers.

At the height of his career, he was put forward to take over as music director of the Paris Opera, but after a group of star singers petitioned Queen Marie Antoinette, refusing to work with him because they did not want to accept orders from someone of mixed race, he withdrew from the running.

The injustice continued even after his death when Bologne’s name was essentially erased from music history.

The nickname of the ‘Black Mozart’ has also attracted controversy. 

Although the two were contemporaries and knew one another, there’s little to suggest that Bologne remained in Mozart’s shadow for too long – and in several instances, it appears that Mozart may have borrowed Bologne’s material in some of his own writing.

The biopic, Chevalier, will be the feature screenwriting debut from Stefani Robinson, the writer of TV shows Atlanta and What We Do in the Shadows, both of which she received Emmy nominations for.