Note: This arrangement takes care to closely reflect the style of harmoniemusik and preserve all markings and dynamics found in the original manuscript. The substitute parts are intended to make the work accessible to a wider range of ensembles while still maintaining a balanced timbre.
2 oboes (or flutes) 2 clarinets in B-flat 2 horns in 2 bassoons optional double bass or contrabassoon Substitute parts:
2 Trombones for Horns
Bass Clarinet for Bassoon 1
Bass Clarinet or Baritone Saxophone for Bassoon 2
Eb or BBb Contrabass Clarinet for Contrabassoon/Double Bass
Composer, violinist, conductor, fencer, soldier, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, lived a unique and interesting life that was once forgotten (or worse, ignored) by the annals of history. His mother Nanon, a slave, and his father Georges de Bologne, a wealthy French plantation owner, Joseph was spared a potential life as a slave and was instead raised with all of the advantages provided by the wealth and connection of his father. He attended an aristocratic boarding school, The Royal Polytechnic Academy of Weapons and Riding, where he studied traditional academics, music, dancing, and notably fencing under the guidance of Nicolas Texier de La Böessière. It was his success as a swordsman that was Joseph’s gateway to prestige and connection. Upon graduation, he was made an officer in the court of King Louis XV and acquired the title Le Chevalier de SaintGeorges. Joseph’s musical break came when he debuted as soloist on two violin concerti, his own compositions, with François-Joseph Gossec’s Les Concerts des Amateurs (an ensemble of professionals and amateurs). Joseph went on to become conductor of this ensemble in 1773 and led this orchestra to great repute in Paris. After his bid to become the music director of the Paris Opera failed, purportedly because several of the company’s leading singers were unwilling to work with a man “of mixed race,” Joseph turned to composing comic opera instead. Of the six he composed, only his third, premiered in 1780, L’amant Anonyme (The Anonymous Lover) has survived in its complete form. In 1789, he joined the military and quickly rose through the ranks leading troops in the French Revolution. His leadership was legendary, ultimately assembling a corps of 800 infantry and 200 cavalries, mostly men of color, his group became known as Légion Saint-Georges. L’amant Anonyme is speculated to be somewhat biographic about its composer. It tells the tale of a man (Valcour) who is afraid to reveal his true identity to the object of his affections (Léontine), which is perhaps analogous to Joseph’s reality as an eighteenth-century man of color in pre-revolution France: able to love, yet unable to love freely and openly. Composed for a cast of six and a small orchestra, the opera was given its modern United States premier by the Little Opera Theater of New York in 2016 and was recently performed on an internet-streaming platform by the Los Angeles Opera (November 2020). The Ouverture was originally composed for two oboes, two horns, four violins, viola, and basso continuo and includes character traits typical to the baroque period such as contrapuntal imitation and dynamically tapered phrase endings. This transcription by James David is rescored for a traditional harmoniemusik wind octet: two oboes (or flutes), two clarinets, two horns, two bassoons, with optional contra bassoon or double bass. It contains three short movements, each with its own formal structure. The Ouverture opens with a unique sonata in 3/4 time marked presto (very fast) in F major. It has most of the typical hallmarks of a sonata: an exposition with two themes, a development, retransition, and a recapitulation which interestingly omits a restatement of the first theme in favor of an immediate reprise of the second theme. This segues to the second movement, which is a fairly strict ternary form (ABA) in the parallel F minor. It takes place in a 2/4 meter marked andante (moderately slow). This movement originally utilized only a string quartet of two violins, viola, and bass. The final movement arrives without pause from the second and in the original scoring returned to the full forces of the ensemble. It is another ternary form, here marked presto in 6/8 time and in the original F major. The B section ventures into the parallel key of F minor and its relative Aflat major before landing back in F major for the return of the A section.