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Giv Cornfield, Ph.D.
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, November 2006

St. Georges was a renaissance man - in spite of his baroque/rococo milieu: An extremely attractive mulatto of supreme talents, he excelled as an athlete, soldier, and most importantly for us, as a superb, multi-faceted musician. His various activities prevented him from devoting enough time to composing, but those works that have come down to us - and written for his own use - provide an insight into his violinistic prowess. Veteran violinist Takako Nishizaki sails through this lovely music with graceful ease and a firm sense of style. Conductor and orchestra provide excellent support, even if the acoustic setting is somewhat dry. I recall with pleasure many recordings by this excellent conductor made in the hall of his ancestral castle, Schloss Bruehl,which has such superb acoustic qualities.



Giv Cornfield, Ph.D.
November 2006

St. Georges was a renaissance man - in spite of his baroque/rococo milieu: An extremely attractive mulatto of supreme talents, he excelled as an athlete, soldier, and most importantly for us, as a superb, multi-faceted musician. His various activities prevented him from devoting enough time to composing, but those works that have come down to us - and written for his own use - provide an insight into his violinistic prowess. Veteran violinist Takako Nishizaki sails through this lovely music with graceful ease and a firm sense of style. Conductor and orchestra provide excellent support, even if the acoustic setting is somewhat dry. I recall with pleasure many recordings by this excellent conductor made in the hall of his ancestral castle, Schloss Bruehl,which has such superb acoustic qualities.



Richard Wigmore
BBC Music Magazine, February 2002

"The Guadeloupe-born Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-99) was a polymath extraordinaire, combining careers as musician, athlete (he was reputedlly the finest swordsman in Europe), horseman and -- less successfully -- military commander. When not managing the Duc d'Orleans's hunting retinue, he played a key role in the Parisian musican 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."

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Chang Tou Liang
The Straits Times, October 2001

"Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1739-99) [was] born in Guadeloupe in the West Indies to a French father and a black slave, [the] Saint-Georges' family moved to Paris when he was 10.

His musical education was not well documented but he acquired skills as a solo violinist and conductor in tandem with his fencing abilities, thus making a name for himself in both fields.

Those looking for anything remotely Afro-American or West Indian in Saint-Georges' violin concerto do so in vain.

Stylistically, these works resemble the concertos of Haydn and the young Mozart, from the formal structure down to the ornamentations, and Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki's sympathetic readings will win them new friends."



Robert Emmett
Fanfare, October 2001

"This disc holds some lovely, not to mention unusual and interesting, repertoire by one of music's most arresting personalities."



Lindsay Kemp
Gramophone, July 2001

"Swordsman, athlete, militiaman and violinist, Saint-Georges also found time to compose...Takako Nishizaki is a competent, clean-lined soloist whose approach matches the unaggressive mood of the music well, and whose tone in the many high-lying passages is never less than gratifyingly sweet."



Tamara Bernstein
National Post, May 2001

"You'd think that the classical music orchestras, desperate to slough off their image of dinosaurs playing museum music written by dead white European males, would have glommed on to Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (ca. 1739-1799) long before now. Born in Guadeloupe to a black mother and a colonial (white) Frenchman, the Chevalier moved to Paris with his parents when he was 10. He went on to have a triple career as a swashbuckling athlete (renowned for his fencing and riding skills), military man and musician. We know that Saint-Georges was a brilliant violinist - not only from contemporary accounts, but also from the demands of the concertos he wrote for himself to perform, three of which appear on this welcome release from Naxos. This CD presents three concertos that probably date from between 1772 and 1779: the Concerto in C Major, Op. 5 No. 1; Concerto No. 2 in A Major, and the Concerto in G Major, Op. 8. Written in the gallant style, they have a Boccherini-like freshness and charm. While the first movements are pretty generic, the slow movements are highly expressive, and the composer never fails to pull some great tunes out of his hat in the finales. Though I'd rather hear them performed on period instruments - the stratospheric passages would sound even higher on gut strings and there would be more colours - the Cologne Chamber Orchestra and Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki (who is the wife of Naxos founder Klaus Heymann) do a fine job. Under Helmut Muller-Bruhl, the orchestra plays with gratifying sensitivity to 18th-century articulation."



David Hurwitz
ClassicsToday.com

rating

"These three violin concertos appear at a time when the music of the wider Classical Period--composers aside from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven--is garnering more attention than ever before. Labels like Naxos and its publishing affiliate, Artaria, are digging up, printing and recording large swaths of repertoire and proving just how high the standard of quality was during this epoch. Joseph Boulogne, a.k.a. the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, has always had a certain following, as much owing to his colorful life as warrior, statesman, and violin virtuoso of mixed-race parentage as to his gifts as a composer. These violin concertos may not be terribly adventurous formally, but they reveal an extremely cultured mind with a genuine gift for melody. They flow beautifully.

"Each concerto has essentially the same form: a quick first movement, a central Andante or Largo, and a Rondeau finale in moderate tempo with a racy minor-key episode in the middle. While full of effective display for the solo instrument, they are not "virtuoso" works in the sense that the finales offer the most show-stopping moments. As in classical symphonies, the first movements are the most highly developed, and consequently the most difficult for the soloist, while those following offer a steady relaxation. Rapid figurations and wild bouts of frantic passagework are less important than a fine, singing tone and a cultivated sense of style.

"In this last respect, the works find an ideal advocate in Takako Nishizaki. She plays each work with an elegance and fastidiousness that never becomes merely fussy or precludes a natural simplicity of expression. She masters the music's more virtuosic passages with ease, but makes the strongest impression at moments such as those in the opening movement of the Op. 5, No. 2 concerto where the composer expects absolute purity of intonation in very high-lying, exposed passages. Here, and at other similar moments, Nishizaki's sweet tone, tastefully controlled vibrato, and accuracy of pitch pay generous dividends. Of course, there's more to this music than mere cuteness, and Nishizaki certainly enjoys those special excursions, such as the "minore" sections of all three finales (Op. 8 in particular), which call for some serious fiddling in a more rugged, folk-style.

"Still, it's the lovely slow movements that may linger most in your memory, particularly that of the C major concerto, with its Mozartean divided violas. Nishizaki adds her own entirely apt, brief cadenzas towards the end of each--the only places in these works that clearly encourage improvisation. Helmut Müller-Brühl and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra offer vigorous support, though for my taste the harpsichord continuo sounds too prominent (the music doesn't really require it at all), and Naxos' recording, though richly sonorous and very well-balanced between soloist and orchestra, puts a slight glare on Nishizaki's upper register. Still, this isn't serious enough to preclude a strong recommendation for the Chevalier's finely crafted music, especially when it's played with such obvious care and affection."






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3:12:18 AM, 24 November 2014
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