Book Reviews


The Chevalier de Saint-Georges
By Gabriel Banat
Published by Pendragon Press
Hillsdale, NY 2006

The Chevalier de Saint-Georges, born Joseph Bologne, was the son of an African slave and a French plantation owner on the island of Guadeloupe. The story of his improbable rise in French society, his life as a famous fencer, celebrated violinist-composer and conductor, and later commander of a colored regiment in the French Revolution, should, on the facts alone, gladden the heart of the most passionate romance novelist. Yet, the information disseminated about this illustre inconnu is found in an extravagent nineteenth-century novel, which contains more fiction than fact. Unfortunately, many of the author’s flights of fancy have found their way into serious works about Saint-Georges. Gabriel Banat has set about systematically dispelling the confusion, for the real story is easily as fascinating as any flight of fancy. Gabriel Banat has been a professional violinist all his life; recitalist and member of the New York Philharmonic, he has systematically scoured the violin repertory for interesting and even unknown music. He came across the works of St. Georges and was fascinated by the freshness and charm of these 18th-century compositions. Eventually, he edited a critical edition of all the violin music and, inevitably, began a systematic investigation into the life of this intriguing and multifaceted individual, utilizing archives of the French Land Army, official clippings and untapped personal diaries of St. Georges’ contemporaries. Banat is the author of an authoritative monograph on St. Georges in the Black Music Research Journal.



”A fascinating biography… Saint-Georges finally has a biographer who tries to give a sense of his place in music history….[Banat] has gone through the archives to establish what can be known with certainty about his subject.”
—Darryl Pinckney, NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, Vol. LIV, No. 13


“Here is the first truly reliable and scholarly account of the dazzling career of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Gabriel Banat treats his compositions with no less brio than he presents the fascinating details of Saint-Georges’ tumultuous life. The book is a page-turner. Banat, a well known violinist, proves most adept with the pen, and offers the reader a beautifully written biography, that sets right the many misrepresentations which, until now, have clouded the records of this remarkable man.”
—ROBERT W. GUTMAN, author of Richard Wagner, The Man, His Mind, and His Music, and of Mozart: A Cultural Biography.


“MUST READ!!!!!” TODAY’S BOOKS, Sept. 1, 2006


“In his new book, author Gabriel Banat aims to set the record straight …digging out the hard and fast kernels of truth, he transcends the merely biographical to paint the vivid portrait of an era, placing Saint-Georges squarely in the context of the social, political, and musical worlds he inhabited.
—James M. McKean, STRINGS, May 2007


“Banat(‘s)… scholarship is as rigorous as his writing style is lively. Such a subject, presented with this combination of depth and drama, makes for hours of absorbing reading. This one’s going in my library.”
—Tina Chancey, EARLY MUSIC AMERICA, Summer 2007



5 stars The Chevalier de Saint Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow, January 21, 2010

By Heidi Lucken “Change Agent of Human Resources” (Detroit, MI)

This review is from: The Chevalier de Saint-Georges: Virtuoso of the Sword and the Bow (Hardcover)

My reading is usually a mix of work related technical material, continuing education material and books related to Leadership themes. Le Chevalier de Georges is the MOST comprehensive and exhaustive ‘biography’ I have read to date. Rarely do I read a book twice. Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down! It was so rich and vast in the depth and description of this mans life…there were times I found myself re-reading a chapter; section or passage over and over again.

It’s interesting to me a ‘new’ copy of this book is cheaper than a ‘used’ copy, an indication the content of this book continues to appreciate. A second printing is seriously needed. The talent, barriers, hardships and accomplishments this man experienced is truly awe inspiring and heart breaking. His contributions to ‘classical music’ remain unacknowledged, his swordsmanship…no one has passed to date! His personal losses include instances most of us probably wouldn’t survive yet he remained dynamic and continued to produce.

Truly, this is one of ‘those books’ when you’re done reading it, you never see the world as you saw it before again. Posthumously, the French have named a boulevard after Saint Georges, much like we have named avenues after Martin Luther King Jr. or, Ceasar Chavez. The book is rich in identifying de Georges relationship and history to Haiti which in turn reveals history of Haiti most of us never knew.

Since reading this book I’ve bought it twice for others. All three of us claim it is one of the top five books we’d take to an island or grave. It’s just that good of a book. Read it fast or slow you’ll learn fantastic information and history in each page.

By Gabriel Banat
Published by Calla Editions
Mineola, NY 2015

Don’t Miss this Opportunity 5 stars
An outstanding reproduction of the original autographs….beautifully printed and bound. A must-have for any lover of the violin concerti.