We’re excited to announce the release of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges, Three Sonatas for Violin and Fortepiano Opus 1b by maestro musicians, violinist Andrew McIntosh and pianist Steven Vanhauwaert.

This album champions a lesser known but much deserving composer of Mozart’s era, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. For those unfamiliar with the term, “Chevalier” is a French title originally equivalent to the English knight.

Andrew and Steven chose to record their album on instruments from that very era in a space similar to where the Sonatas would have been performed during Bologne’s era. The album transports the listener in time. Details on their instruments will be revealed later in the interview.

It was a pleasure catching up with them about their album, but before we share their story with you, a few highlights from Bologne’s bio are in order. They make quite the resume:

• The world’s first Black conductor, colonel of the world’s first Black military corps, and the finest swordsman in all of Europe.
• A French classical composer, virtuoso violinist, conductor of Le Concert des Amateurs and conductor/director of the highly prestigious Concert Spirituel, which became described as “the best orchestra for symphonies in Paris.
• Lived under the same roof with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the mansion of Madame de Montesson for approximately five months.😱
• Wrote two symphonies, six operas, seven violin concertos, four symphonies concertantes, five sonatas, three string quartet pieces, and at least ten pieces of vocal music.
• Active with the local Masonic lodge, became France’s first Black freemason, and formed the masonic symphony orchestra Le Cercle de l’Harmonie while rising to the rank of 33rd degree freemason.

Album release of Joseph Bologne Sonatas by Steven Vanhauwaert and Andrew McIntosh are featured in Pastimes for a Lifetime's blog interview.

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, US Public Domain

Quite an accomplished man of his time in light of the challenges he faced during his lifetime. Good to keep in mind when listening to this album. And now for the story.

LRW: How have you two become acquainted? Have you recorded albums together in the past?

SV: We met a long time ago at the Chamber Music Unbound Festival in Mammoth Lakes, CA. Since then, we have played many concerts together. Andrew and I also share a passion for period instruments, and have performed many recitals on fortepiano and baroque violin. When we stumbled upon these works by Joseph Bologne, we became enamored with them and decided to record an album.

LRW: What a great way to connect and develop a professional friendship in music. The Chamber Music Unbound Festivals in Mammoth Lakes, CA are fantastic. I attended their 2018 summer concert and was blown away not only by the virtuosic performances and variety of works in the programs, but also the warmth and humor of the musicians whose joy in playing was visceral. Highly recommend. May I ask, why this composer? Why now?

SV: We actually recorded this music in 2020 at the height of the pandemic in a beautiful recital hall in a house in Brentwood. Both Andrew and I have had a decade long fascination with music that is off the beaten path and/or underperformed. Lately, the music by Bologne has gotten a lot more attention, and deservedly so.

LRW: Glad something highly creative emerged from that time. I share your passion for bringing lesser known composers and their underperformed works into a well deserved spotlight. The timing is right, for sure. Who came up with the album idea, Steven or Andrew?

SV: We like to get together and sightread through various repertoire. Initially, we just wanted to do a video recording of one of these sonatas. During the process of recording this video, we both became excited about the idea of recording all three sonatas on an album.

LRW: Nice inspo. The album was meant to be. If the video recording becomes available, I’d be delighted to share it with my readers. As a graphic artist and art teacher, I’m intrigued by the cover art. May I ask, who is the artist? What is the story behind the design?

SV: There is a famous painting, which depicts Bologne in a fencing match. This new rendition of the painting, made by our good friend and designer Amy Iwazumi, is inspired by that painting.

LRW: Nice that a good friend joined in the making of this remarkable album. Amy is also a fine violinist and violist. My Google search revealed that very painting by artist Alexandre-August Robineau entitled, “The Fencing Match between the Chevalier de Saint-George and the Chevalier D’eon”, circa 1787-9. It records a celebrated fencing match between the Chevalier de Saint-Georges and Chevalier d’Eon which took place at Carlton House on April 9,1787 in the presence of the Prince of Wales, members of the nobility and fencing aficionados.

Album release of Joseph Bologne Violin and Fortepiano Sonatas by Steven Vanhauwaert and Andrew McIntosh interviewed by Pastimes for a Lifetime.

Royal Collection Trust

At first glance, I thought Bologne’s opponent was a woman. But, no! According to the Royal Collection Trust, The Chevalier d’Éon, was a decorated soldier, spy and diplomat and master fencer who lived the first half of their life as a man, and the second as a woman, and received a certain amount of notoriety for this reason. What a great historic tidbit. Perfect artwork for your album!

As a pianist and piano teacher, I’m fascinated by the sound of the Walter model fortepiano I heard on your album’s BandCamp.com preview.

I recognized Rod Regier’s name from my 2021 blog interview with Canadian pianist Andrea Botticelli on her album of works by Czerny and the Schumann’s. She recorded on a Regier built replica of a Graf Viennese fortepiano from the 1830s, owned by the Banff Center for the Arts.

So, back to the Walter model, was this the typical fortepiano of Bologne’s time or just for the court?

Also, I hope you don’t mind my asking, but how did you happen to score this beautiful Rod Regier replica? Thanks.

Album release of Joseph Bologne Violin and Fortepiano Sonatas by Steven Vanhauwaert and Andrew McIntosh interviewed by Pastimes for a Lifetime.

Walter Fortepiano Replica

SV: Walter made beautiful fortepianos that were very popular at the time (1780-1820’s). Several of these pianos still exist in their original state, but unlike violins, pianos don’t age quite as well. For that reason, several builders have made replicas of that instrument. We were lucky to find a replica made by Rod Regier at a private home in Brentwood. The owner was just as excited as we were about the music, and graciously offered us the use of his instrument.

LRW: Ah, so the Walter pianoforte was the popular model during the time of the French Revolution. Interesting point about aging antique instruments. So glad replica builders are able to make these remarkable historic pianos available. That is lucky for both you as well as the owner. Andrew, can you tell the readers about your baroque violin? How did you come to acquire it? Why did you choose a Baroque violin to record compositions from the Classical era?

Album release of Joseph Bologne Violin and Fortepiano Sonatas by Steven Vanhauwaert and Andrew McIntosh interviewed by Pastimes for a Lifetime.

Andrew McIntosh’s baroque violin and bow

AM: The violin used in this recording is actually an anonymous German instrument from the mid to late 18th century, restored by our fabulous local luthier Michael Fischer. I bought it for $100 from an antique dealer who was a family friend about a dozen years ago, in such terrible condition that it couldn’t be played, but it looked intriguing and I figured it was worth the gamble. The restoration took over a year, but once it was back in playing condition as a period instrument it had a beautiful rich tone and was perfect for this recording. I also chose to use a baroque bow for the recording, which is an exact copy of an English bow from around 1730, made by expert bow maker David Hawthorne. Bologne lived in the middle of transitional time from an instrument construction perspective, when musicians were experimenting with newer instrument designs, adding keys to woodwinds, trying out different designs for the curvature and length of bows, etc., but no standards had been adopted yet and a multitude of different baroque and transitional instrument and bow styles would have been represented on stage simultaneously in an orchestral performance at the time.

LRW: Fascinating background story. That violin was a good gamble! I did mean to inquire about the bow. An English bow for a German violin! I can only imagine that era must have been a stimulating time for luthiers and bow makers as well as the musicians for which they were designed. Thank you for the intel. It will make listening to your album that much more interesting. As for selecting a recording space, there are many fine concert halls and recording studios to choose from. How did you two decide on the Contrapuntal Recital Hall? According to a Google search, it appears to be a meticulously designed concert hall inside a private Brentwood, California residence built in 1935 by SoCal architect John Byers.

SV: Los Angeles indeed has several incredible concert halls. We liked using the contrapuntal recital hall as it is much smaller than traditional concert halls and for this reason it would be closer in acoustic qualities to the rooms in spaces where this music would have been played at the time.

LRW: Ah, good point regarding the acoustics. With many great labels to choose from, what made you decide on New Focus Recordings? Your album mentions “Olde Focus Recordings”. Is that a division within the label?

SV: Olde Focus Recordings is indeed, a subsidiary of New Focus Recordings, and as the name suggests it focuses on older repertoire. It is a very professional label with a great selection of releases, and we are proud to present this project on their catalog.

LRW: Thanks for clarifying. It sounds like your album is in good hands with this label. Where may the album be purchased? Is there a physical CD or downloads only?

SV: The CD is available physically on bandcamp, as well as on all the major platforms for downloads.

LRW: Thanks. Good to know. I’ve preordered mine from Bandcamp and hope our readers will be intrigued to do the same. Perhaps I’ll be favored with personal autographs on mine by the maestros.

Thank you Steven and Andrew for your gracious time in revealing the story behind your fantastic album. Congratulations and best wishes!

To learn more about these maestro musicians, visit their websites and social media platforms.
Andrew McIntosh
Website
Instagram
YouTube

Steven Vanhauwaert
Website
Facebook
Instagram
YouTube

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