Mozart's Legacy of Plagiarism Leaves Critics Concerned

Brooke Brown
January 14, 2020

The world believed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the most exceptional musical genius to ever compose a symphony. 

But we’re questioning that legacy after hearing the story of the Black man who gave him a run for his money.

Joseph Bologne (le Chevalier de Saint-Georges) was the Caribbean-born son of an enslaved African woman and wealthy white Guadeloupean plantation owner who, despite what was custom, offered his illegitimate offspring access to a top-notch French education. 

Excelling in swordsmanship, military service, and music, Bologne was Mozart’s one contemporary who drove the classical prodigy INSANE with envy.

At 33, he could play circles around Mozart on the violin. Some critics even consider his compositions to be more technically challenging than Mozart’s! 

Bologne was charming, rich, popular and multi-talented – everything a young Mozart aspired to become. This only fueled Mozart’s thirst for revenge.

According to documentarian Chi-chi Nwanoku, Mozart copied parts of Bologne’s violin concertos for his famous Symphonie Concertante in E-flat Major, and dedicated a Black villainous character named Monostatos in his opera The Magic Flute after his rival!

Mozart capitalized on his white privilege to steal the shine from Joseph Bologne – and racist practices of their day, alongside the ruckus caused by the French Revolution, ensured Bologne’s talent would largely be forgotten. 

What a shame that music history, too, continues to rob our brilliant composers of their just due.

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