By the standards of the period, Joseph Bologne de Saint-Georges was not a prolific composer, but this is perhaps hardly surprising given his dual careers as an athlete and artist.
The majority of his instrumental works were published in Paris between 1772 and 1779 and include quartets for strings and continuo, violin concertos and symphonies concertantes.
The violin concertos were clearly composed by Saint-Georges for his own use and tell us a great deal about his strengths as a violinist. All the concertos make extensive use of the highest positions and require great agility in string crossing and double-stopping, frequently in fast tempos.
His friend the actress Louise Fusil wrote that ‘the expressivity of his performance was his principal merit’ and indeed there is far more to his concertos than mere virtuosic display. His considerable lyrical gifts are most apparent in slow movements which are written beautifully for the instrument and eschew the complex ornamentation typical of the concerto of the period.
Although his first movements are structurally sound they are perhaps a little long on occasion for the material upon which they are built in spite of their many beauties.
Saint-Georges favours the fashionable Rondeau finale in many of his concertos and always manages to introduce appealing new thematic material in the central minor episode.