Adrien Francios Servais, Part One
The Belgian violoncellist Adrien Francois Servais, an illustrious representative of the 19th century virtuoso-romantic style, is a prominent figure in the history of violoncello performing art. Like Bernhard Romberg, he made an essential contribution to cello technique, greatly broadening its expressive media, and wrote a great many concert works for the cello which embodied the peculiarities of his style as a p&former. Forty years younger than Romberg, Servais' playing and compositions both reflected the tastes of the new epoch, with its romantic fervor and ardent affection for the art of Niccolo Paganini and Franz Liszt.
Classical austerity and restraint, as well as the "academic" tendencies so peculiar to Romberg, were already alien to Servais. His art was distinguished rather for its poetic and scintillating elegance; his playing appealed to his contemporaries not only because of its expressive singing, but because of the brilliance and grace of the virtuoso technique as well, which was very different from that of Romberg, heavy and outdated by the middle of the 19th century.
Undoubtedly both Paganini and Liszt had a rather great influence on the Belgian artist. His contemporaries (Berlioz was one) used to call him "the Paganini of the cello" or "the Liszt of the cello." But his performing style as well as his cello works are closer to the style of his younger contemporary and compatriot, the famous violinist Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881).
Though the value of Servais' cello works, like most of the violin compositions of Vieuxtemps, is today restricted basically to teaching, their historical significance is indisputable. They greatly facilitated the development of cello virtuosity, expanded its expressive and technical resources, and stimulated interest in the violoncello as a concert instrument and in the composition of concert music for it.
The name of Adrien Servais indicates the blossoming of the Belgian violoncello school, assumed to be founded by the famous French violoncellist Nicolas Joseph Platel (1777-1835), the pupil of Jean Louis Duport and Jacque Michel Lamare. Professor at the Royal music school in Brussels from 1824 (in 1832 it became the Conservatoire), Platel taught many violoncellists, the most prominent of them being Francois De Munck (1815-1854), Alexandre Batta (1816-1902), and especially Adrien Francois Servais, whose significance goes far beyond Belgium.
Adrien Francois Servais was born on June 6, 1807 in the Belgian town of Hal near Brussels. His father was a modest church musician. Very early the young Adrien began to study violin, but at the age of twelve after hearing the violoncellist Platel play, he promptly entered his class at the Royal music school in Brussels, and a year later was awarded the first prize. At the same time, he spent three years playing in a theatre orchestra. In 1829 Servais became Platel's assistant at the same school.
Servais' talent as a composer, his gift of melody and creative inventiveness also became apparent very early. When the young cellist played his concertino in Brussels in 1830, the local paper gave an enthusiastic review of the composition and the performer.
His playing of the cello was so masterly that in 1833, after being recommended by Francois-Joseph FOis (the prominent Belgian composer and music critic) he left Brussels to give several concerts in Paris. It was then that he probably first heard Paganini. Servais' appearances in the French capital were a veritable success. The following year he performed no less triumphantly in London in the concerts of the Philharmonic Society.
Back in Brussels, Servais continued to work persistently for two years on perfection of his art. It was in those years that his brilliant skill reached its very high level, with the ease and grace of the bowing technique, astonishing finger facility, and its warm and expressive tone. Undoubtedly Servais' virtuosity was stimulated and influenced by the art of Paganini and the Belgian violin school, which was then at its full bloom (let us remember that Servais took up the violoncello when he was quite an advanced violinist). His initial more mature cello compositions which reflect both his style as a performer and the new devices of the cello technique he had developed are from the same period. His concert programs soon began to be compiled exclusively of his own compositions, which were an unqualified success when he performed them himself.
For some of the time that Servais was a professor at the Conservatoire of Brussels, Charles August Beriot' and Huber L6onard also taught there. Servais made friends with the young Vieuxtemps (who later was to be the teacher of the outstanding Belgian violinist Eug~ne Ysaye), and often appeared in concerts with him. At any rate, they are known at the end of the 1830s to have played a Fantasia for violin and cello which they had composed together on a theme from the opera Les Huguenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer. 21f one can say that Servais had a certain initial influence on the young Vieuxtemps, the subsequent reverse impact is equally true; in any case, there is undoubtedly a great deal in common in their artistic styles, as well as in the creative principles of the Belgian violin and violoncello schools as vividly reflected by the romantic and virtuoso art of Servais and Vieuxtemps.
After Platel's death, Servais achieved the title of the first cellist of the Royal Chapel, and received a professorship at the Brussels Conservatoire. But later, apparently attracted by concert tours, he gave up that post.
In 1836 Servais again appeared in concert in Paris. That was followed by journeys to Holland, Germany, France, Russia, Austria, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, which were a string of brilliant triumphs.
His tours of Russia, which promoted his world fame, occupy a special place in Servais' artistic biography. From 1839 on he visited Russia several times, often remaining there forlong periods, and making close friends with the most illustrious Russian musicians. We will look at Servais' Russian concerts and music contacts at a later point, but meanwhile let us only say that his contacts there and his interest in Russian music did leave a certain trace on the virtuoso's art and his compositions. Without doubt, Servais' performances in the Russian capitals and provincial towns stimulated the popularization of the cello in Russia.
Music critics in every European country where Servais appeared in concert wrote delightful reviews of the art of the Belgian virtuoso. A Leipzig critic spoke of "the gigantic power of his fortissimo tone and the greatest tenderness in pianissimo." And he continued: "As for incredible technique and excellent accuracy of the left hand, he is comparable to Paganini.113
A year later, Paris musicians and music-lovers were enthralled by Servais' brilliant mastery and fascinating artistry. The Parisians, who had heard Paganini and Liszt, did not expect from the violoncellist such a dynamic manifestation of romantic pathos. They never thought that the cello's expressive means were able to embody, alongside poetic dlan and grace, spiritual flights and romantic elevation, or to scale the summits of virtuosity which seemed to have been within thtpower of no instruments other than the piano and violin.
Servais' programs usually consisted of a concerto and two or three of his own fantasias which he played with an orchestra or a quartet. A concert would open with an orchestral overture, and the cello works, which were the core of the program, alternated with performances by a singer or pianist. That he included in his programs works such as the Egmont Overtures and parts of Beethoven's symphonies speaks in favor of Servais' taste. As his fame grew, the Belgian artist, like Liszt, began giving solo recitals, without the then usual "entourage." Some of them were of chamber character. One of his interesting programs was that of an appearance (April 24, 1844 at the Gewandhaus), when Servais was billed as a "violoncellist from St. Petersburg." He played the first movement of his concerto followed by a soloist (Sachs) singing a romance from Spohr's opera Faust. Then Servais returned to play the fantasia Souvenir de Spa. Much enthusiasm was forthcoming when the Beethoven Trio in B-flat Major Op. 97 was performed by Felix Mendelssohn (the "Generalmusikdirektor" of the Gewandhaus), Ferdinand David (the concertmaster of the Gewandhaus) and Servais. Then the vocalist sang songs by Humbart and Mendelssohn, and the concert ended with Servais'Le Carnaval de Venise in a brilliant performance by the author.
Though paying tribute to Servais' outstanding virtuosity, the high qualities of his tone ("the tone is not very powerful, but fullblooded, pure and deep, soft, lithe and even in all positions"), and his inspired and fascinating performance, the review was not without a tinge of criticism which showed the writer to be an advocate of the esthetics of certain Leipzig circles close to Mendelssohn. The reviewer wrote that Servais' performance was "rather piquant than profound, rather elegant than inspired. The great ease and precision with which Herr Servais overcomes technical difficulties and, perhaps, his command of the superficial devices producing the greatest effect on large audiences all help to give an impression of coquetry with the public, which is so obviously indicated by his mannerism of playing ... We are certain that Herr Servais' achievements might have been esthetically more significant and their impact on artists and educated art-lovers deeper and more lasting, had they been more sincere, natural and free of manners alien to and contradicting true art. It is quite possible that the crowd would have applauded less enthusiastically, but the standing of Herr Servais as a master would have been far higher, very high . . ."
Similar critical notices, though not at all numerous, bearing overtones of subjectivity and prompted by the typical demands of the Leipzig musical environment for more profound art, do indicate the beginning of the crisis of the virtuoso-romantic style in the art of performing. One interesting note is that when, in January of the same year- 1844-Servals appeared triumphantly in Berlin (Mendelssohn conducted the orchestra), a Berlin paper called Servais "the Paganini of the cello" and stated that if it were possible to compare the famous violinist and Servais, the advantage might have been with the latter.'
A competent opinion by Hector Berlioz, referring to 1847 says: "In the second concert we discovered a first class talent, of Paganini's standing, which amazes, touches and fascinates by its courage, flights of feeling and vehemence: I am speaking of the great violoncellist Servais. His singing is heartfelt, without any exaggerated emphasis, with grace and without affectation; he makes short work of the most incredible difficulties: he never allows any error in his tone quality, and in the passages when the instrument has to play its highest notes, reaches an impetuosity which the bow of a master-violinist would find it hard to manage ."
The same delightful welcome (and not the first) was given the artist by Viennese audiences in the winter season of 1847/48, and was commented on by a foreign correspondent of a Russian periodical. "Servais is one of the most notable violoncellists of our time," he wrote, "his playing is both graceful and bravura. Whereas other cellists absolutely neglect the virile character of the instrument, Servais keeps himself to the middle way: he sings on the violoncello, approaching the highest notes of its range, but he also reminds his listeners that-the cello has its strong bass strings as well. No contemporary cellist other than Servais can perform musical figures in such abundance, such vigorous and brilliant passages; not the slightest effort, however, is seen when he surmounts difficulties which seem to vanish because of his poetic flame. Servais' aim is not to cast dust in his audience's eyes, but to enrapture the heart."
The reminiscences of Edmound Micheau, a Belgian contemporary of Servais who knew the artist rather well, add to the idea of the cellist's performing style. Speaking of Servais'unpretentiousness and humanity, he exclaimed: "But what a great artist was hidden in that modest person! What power of expression in his phrasing! . . The tone was full and incomparably pure; what beauty, force and majesty ... and fantastic virtuosity, besides. The volume of the sound was not reduced even in the most dizzy episodes and passages, reaching the extreme frontiers of the instrument's range. A musical phrase in his performance seemed a spontaneous inspiration."
In the autumn of 1848, a new period began in Servais' life when he (at the same time as the violinist Huber Leonard) became a professor at the Brussels Conservatoire and a court soloist. From then on his foreign tours were sporadic, though he journeyed until the last months of life.
More interesting is that the four long trips he took (the last in 1866 shortly before his death) were to Russia where he had many friends, relatives (in 1849 he married in St. Petersburg) and admirers. After his return in 1852 to his native town of Hal from a long tour of Russia, he was given a grand reception. Not only Hal, but all Belgium was proud of Servais as it would be of a son. Poems were dedicated to him, commemorative medals were cast in his honor, and he was decorated with various orders. The critiques of his last years brimmed with respect for the Belgian maestro; reviewers appreciated his original and unrivalled playing, as well as the captivating force of his art which he had preserved.
To evaluate the scale of Servais' concert career, it is sufficient to say that over a period of forty years he gave more than ten thousand concerts in different countries of Europe -and that was a time when travel was extremely difficult.
Unlike Romberg, who taught only occasionally, Servais was head of the cello class at the Brussels Conservatoire until his death, and tutored many pupils. Among them, Joseph Servais,9 Jules DeSwert,10 Charles Montigny, Charles Meerense, Ernest De Munck (the son of Frangois De Munck), Adolph Fisher, Paul Becker and Joseph Hollmann of Holland, Valentin Muller of Germany, the Poles Adam Hermanowski and Jan Karlowicz, the professional Russian cellists Vickentiy Meshkov and Arved Porten, and the amateur Alexander Storozhenko deserve to be mentioned. Their art is excellent proof of Servais' teaching talent.
As part of his artistic biography, it is impossible not to mention the cellist's encounters with Gioacchino Rossini and Richard Wagner. He was very anxious to meet Rossini, whose music he thought highly of and whose themes he sometimes used to compose brilliant variations. The Italian maestro was delighted with both the playing of the Belgian virtuoso and his compositions: a fantasia and concerto. He was quick to appreciate Servais' "sense of measure, taste, technical perfection and pathetic singing." Rossini was especially touched by Xhe Adagio from the Concerto, whose performance brought tears to the great master's eyes. He immediately remembered an unpublished cello concerto he had written for the Italian cellist Gaetano Braga. When they next met, Servais played the concerto at sight and instantly improvised a cadenza, thus winning the composer's heart. He presented Servais with this concerto as a gift, inscribed with a melody he was to use as a theme for a new cello piece.
In 1861 Edmound Micheau. recounts that he and Servais were present at the Paris premiere of Wagner's Tannhduser, which was a scandalous failure. Servais was extremely indignant that the public did not appreciate that great work of music. He calmed down only after he paid a visit to the composer whom he had long respected and expressed his most sincere admiration.
Servais breathed his last on November 26, 1866 at Hal. The town honored him with a ceremonial funeral. Five years later, a statue of the artist by the sculptor Jacques Godebski depicting him with his cello on a high pedestal was erected.
Servais' works, which are romantic in character, combine brilliant virtuosity with cantilena qualities. In both respects they harmonize perfectly with the nature of the cello's expressive and technical means, although musical significance sometimes yields to ostentatious virtuosity. Servais' colorful and picturesque performing devices intensify the romantic shade of his music, which however is sometimes not free of a certain drawing-room prettiness.
Unlike Romberg, Servais composed music only for solo cello. It was not by chance that his favorite genre was the fantasia: there are sixteen fantasias for cello and orchestra and only three concertos among his published works. The form of the fantasia (which Servais combined with the variation principle) that gave him, both as composer and performer, great freedom and vast possibilities to show his instrumental skill, was sufficiently adequate for the romantic virtuoso trend of Servais' art. He was a follower of Paganini, who composed variations on folk and operatic themes, (Paisiello, Rossini) and of Liszt, who made use of themes from the operas of Mozart, Meyerbeer, Glinka, Verdi and Wagner. It might even be pointed out here that Chopin's first published composition was his Fantasia on themes from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni.
The themes of Servais' fantasias were usually melodies of then
popular operatic and other works, such as 11 Barbiere di
Siviglia and Le Compte Ory by Rossini; Lucia di
Lammermoor and La Fille du Rigiment by Donizetti; Les
Huguenots by Meyerbeer; Lestocq by Auber; Sehnsuchtswalzer
by Schubert; and Le Carnaval de Venise (evidently
inspired by the variations of Paganini bearing the same title).
Servais wrote two of his fantasias on Russian themes: Fantasia on
two Russian songs and Souvenir de St. Petersburg.
Other published works of Servais might be mentioned: Andante cantabile et Rondo A la mazurka, Souvenir de Suisse, Wedding at Krakov, Polish fantasia, Souvenir de Bade and Souvenir de Tchernovitzy, as well as a duet for two violoncellos on a theme of Dalayrac.
Among Servais' published transcriptions (that genre became very popular in the romantic period) were Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, and two Mazurkas by Chopin. Six capriccios with an accompaniment of a second violoncello ad libitum, which still have teaching value, occupy a special place in his legacy.
Evidently, quite a number of Servais' works did not travel beyond manuscript form. Among those mentioned in his Russian programs are the Fifth Concerto, Souvenir de Kiev, Variations on the Russian Anthem theme, Souvenir de Warszawa (fantasia on a theme from the popular ballet divertissement Wedding in Oycov), a transcription of Glinka's Somnenije (Doubt) and others.
Servais wrote a sizeable number of piano and cello duets on operatic themes in cooperation with the Belgian pianist Eduard George Gregoir, and violin and cello duets with the Belgian violinists Hubert Leonard and Henri Vieuxtemps.
His solo fantasias were composed in the form of free variations. At the same time, one feels a certain aspiration to preserve the threemovement form of the instrumental concerto. A fantasia usually opens with the orchestral introduction (in a key related or close to the original) followed by a recitative of the cello solo (accompanied by the orchestra) with little solo virtuoso cadenzas. Then the cello plays the theme (in some fantasias it immediately goes through the variational changes) which is then skillfully developed in succeeding variations based on different rhythmical and virtuoso devices. The middle part is formed by slow cantilena division -Andantino, Larghetto, Andante cantabile, Adagio cantabile or Romance.
In the Fantasia on Schubert's waltz or in Souvenir de Spa, the slow part represents a new melodic variant-an extensive variation on a theme, but here presented in a different, contrasting aspect (mode, tonality, character, texture, etc). In the Fantasia on themes from Il Barbiere di Siviglia the slow part, which is also in another key, is based on a new theme. Slow parts are always lyrical and poetic, whereas in contrast to them an expressive and fast finale is usually in the Rondo form. A finale can also be either an extensive brilliant variation on the main theme, or a virtuosic build-up on a new, contrasting theme.
Servais' variations are more often of the figuration-ornament type with elements of character revealed in the melodic patterns and structural peculiarities, specifically in ostinato figurations.
Though with Servais the genre principles are almost constantly the same, the character of some of his fantasias is determined to a certain measure by their thernatics. Servais' aspiration to emphasize the peculiarity of a certain fantasia is seen in the additions to the principal title: Fantaisie 616giaque, Fantaisie (La Romantique), Fantaisie caracteristique, Fantaisie burlesque, Grande Fantaisie, Fantaisie et variations brillants.
Let us consider in more detail some of Servais' fantasias which are the most popular in the concert repertoire.
The Fantasia on Schubert's famous waltz Op. 4 (Sehnsucht swalzer), is one of Servais' earlier compositions, written in the 1830s. Some time later it was published with a dedication to the St. Petersburg amateur pianist, composer and teacher Nikolay Martynov.
The Fantasia begins with a short orchestral introduction, leading to the expansive cello cantilena theme:
The theme is developed in three contrasting variations close to the character type. The first two differ from the third by their elegance and grace; but whereas the first is based on the smooth legato motion, the second is distinguished by the light and graceful "jumping" strokes:
The third variation is based on the octave technique of the solo instrument. It is a vigorous and filll-blooded passage. The extensive orchestral tutti (ritornelli) after the second and third variations are also of interest.
The second part of the Fantasia (Andantino) begins with the melodic theme, in which the minor key modification of the main Schubert theme can easily be heard. It is given an elegy character, emphasized by the instruction "dolce e con dolore." The theme goes through an improvisatory development leading to an episode where it is heard in the -major key, and acquires a graceful and elegant image.
This section abounds in vivid colorful devices: dynamic shades, expressive accents, cadenza-like bridge passages (cadenz:as "in one breath"), true cadenza-recitative, double stops accompanied by the left hand pizzicato, the pizzicato chord sequence, and four-string arpeggios. Despite this structural "wealth," it loses none of its expressiveness, and taste-we are speaking, of course, of the taste of the epoch when romantic virtuosity was in full flower-is never abandoned by the composer.
The finale of the Fantasia takes the form of extensive variations on the main theme. It begins in polonaise rhythm emphasized by the character-genre type of variations and is immediately given brilliant and vivid coloring. Virtuoso and cantilena episodes alternate. Whereas the first cantilena episode appears in the related minor and has a meditative shade, the second reveals a slightly altered main theme. The finale is completed by a bright and lively coda.
In the Fantasia on themes from the opera Barbiere di Siviglia Op. 6, Servais uses three themes from the Rossini work.
This Fantasia has a more extended introduction (Molto allegro), where melodies of Rossini's "Buona notte . . ." are already heard. The principal role is here given to the cello and only at the beginning and at the end do we have short orchestral tutti.
The theme of the first part of the Fantasia (Allegretto) is borrowed from the second act of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. This is the Quintet theme of "Buona notte . . .". On the one hand Servais tried to keep as close to the original as possible, or at any rate, to retain its spirit, while on the other, he tried to give it a concert and specific cello character by the melismatic development of the melody and several performing devices.
Both variations are true virtuoso pieces, and they finish with an orchestra ritornelli; both have few cadenza-like recitatives.
The second part of the Fantasia (Andante cantabile) begins with the melodious theme of Almaviva's cavatina from the first act of the opera, and is played in the tenor register. The theme is masterfully varied through delicate use of the cello's expressive resources-cantilena, double stops, the light virtuoso stroke, etc. The varied interpretation of the theme in the baritone register is equally of interest. Here also Servais finds place-in the middle and at the end-for some short cadenza-like turns.
The Finale (Allegro vivace) is in fact a Rondo, in which a varied and lively theme is used in the form of a twice repeatedrefrain. The work ends with an extended virtuoso coda.
Fantasia Burlesque Op. 9, subtitled Le Carnaval de Venise and close to the type of genre-character variations, stands somewhat apart. The Fantasia was written on an Italian folk theme (the Venetian canzonette "Cara mamma mia"), which as Paganini's good luck charm became very popular in variations for different instruments.
Following Niccolo Paganini, whose Le Carnaval de Venise appeared in 1829, the illustrious Moravian violinist Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst" composed variations on the same theme. Heinrich Heine spoke highly of Ernst's Le Carnaval de Venise calling it "the most charming capriccio."16 Itwas soon after Ernst, evidently, that Servais composed his own variations and dedicated them to his Russian friend, the outstanding amateur pianist Arkadiy Rachmaninov -grandfather of Sergei Rachmaninov.
As for the tone, graceful exposition of the theme and character of some of the variations, Servais' variant is closer to Ernst's. Unlike Paganini's variations, which begin right from the theme, Ernst and Servais present a developed improvised introduction. Paganini wrote the theme in Andantino, Ernst in Allegretto, and Servais in Allegro moderato. It is interesting to compare the exposition of the theme as presented by the three authors, each giving it his own particular coloring:
Servais' composition is more developed, which enables it to be called a Fantasia. As for Paganini, it is a 16-bar theme with twenty variations and a 10-bar coda-finale; with Ernst it is an introduction, a 16-bar theme with twenty five variations, and a five-bar coda; with Servais it is a Fantasia, consisting of an introduction (Allegro maestoso), solo cello recitative, a three-part theme with elements of variational development, two also three-part variations, a slow part (Adagio religioso) and a fast finale (Allegro molto vivace) with coda-stretto.
Unlike Paganini and Ernst, who both wrote an invariably modest accompaniment for all their variations -simply harmonic support for the solo part-Servais wrote a colorfully instrumented full score with extended orchestral tutti (finale).
Now let us turn to Servais' Russian Fantasias. The first of them-Fantasia on two Russian songs-was composed during his first visit to Russia at the beginning of 1839. It was written for cello accompanied by a string quintet or piano, and dedicated to Count Mikhail Wialgohorsky. The Wialgohorsky brothers-the composer Mikhail and the cellist Matwey-were friends of Servais.
Ali-abiev's The Nightingale and Varlamov's The Red Dress were chosen by Servais as themes for the Fantasia in the form of double variation.
The Fantasia begins with a short introduction leading into a twopart cello rendering of the vocal line of Aliabiev's Nightingale (Andante con espressivo and Allegro molto vivace). The variational development of the solo part is realized in the embellished runs (which were performed by singers as well), in the rhythmical changes, and in the shift of the melody from the tonic D minor (exposition) to B flat Minor (recapitulation).
The link with the second division of the Fantasia is already built on the intonation of the second theme, as if in anticipation. Here it is interesting to compare the tonalities B flat minor and A Major (via D flat Major). The theme from The Red Dress (Allegretto) is changed by a phrase from the second part of Nightingale in the same A major, which is followed by a ritornello, again from The Red Dress.
These combine to create a theme, developed in two variations, that is different in instrumental build-up and character: first smooth (Un poco piii mosso), finishing with the same ritornello and acquiring the meaning of the refrain, and then scherzo-like (Allegro moderato).
The Andantino is a variation of the second theme and has a cantilena character; it is presented in different tonalities with the alternation of major and minor (B flat Major, B flat Minor, D Major). The Andantino ends with a short solo cadenza.
The Finale (Allegro non troppo), as well as the coda is in virtuoso style. It is distinguished for its gracious scherzo character, the coda for its dynamic color.
After hearing this Fantasia in St. Petersburg in 1839, Odojevsky wrote that it was "unanimously admired by both connoisseurs and music-lovers. Like Romberg, he (Servais-L.G.) does not embellish our folk songs with unnatural phrasing; like Romberg, he delved deep into the true spirit of the Russian melody. Its musical development does not violate its character and the brilliant passages gracefully diversify it." 18 That was the impression of one of the most learned music critics of the time.
In much the same mold, but more extensive and interesting as far as development is concerned, is Servais' Fantasia Souvenir de St. Petersburg Op. 15, written at the end of 1839 during his second visit to Russia. The Fantasia was composed for cello and orchestra (or piano) on a theme based on the melody of a Russian romance.
The introduction (Larghetto) comprises an orchestral tutti, a melodiously expansive cello cantilena, which metrically varies the theme, a virtuoso division built on figurative legato passages, and a cello recitative leading into the theme. An expressive and melodious theme (Moderato)-Servais indicates the character of its performance by the instructions con espressivo and dolce -is later developed in two brilliant variations with embedded little orchestral tutti. Of special interest is a melodic line in the orchestra at the end of both variations. In rhythm and intonation, it is close to the main theme and is heard against the background of the arpeggio-like motion of the cello.
The second part of the Fantasia (Andantino) is nothing other than a new variation of the theme in the related minor. Its spirit and anxiety are emphasized even more by sad accents and the instruction to play appassionato.
The Finale (Allegro) is written in Rondo form (A-B-A-C-A-coda), in which the theme is a modified cantilena theme and episodes-its virtuoso variations.
Let us consider Servais' concertos in general. Although less typical of his composing, they are definitely of very great interest, because unlike his fantasias on themes by other composers, they better demonstrate his indubitable gift for melody.
Servais' attention was directed to the concerto by Odojevsky during his initial visits to Russia (1839). His repertoire at the time consisted primarily of Variations on Romanesca (a popular 16thcentury piece) and the virtuoso fantasias Souvenir de Spa or Hommage ii Beethoven (which was initially the name of the fantasia on Schubert's waltz19). So it was evidently in Russia that Servais wrote his first cello concerto, which was soon followed by a second.
Praising Servais' fantasias, Odojevsky wrote to Aleksey Verstovsky: ". . . It is curious to listen to these free works - fantasias -especially when they are the fantasias of a true master, and I listened and admired, but was intoning my prayer 'humble, but out loud,' as our late Griboyedov used to say, that the famous violoncellist would try his talent in the kind of compositions that ... are called concertos. I strongly hold that this kind of composition ... is based on the very nature of our feelings and on the very essence of music itself. The three classical movements of a concerto gradually showing sublimity and force, sadness and religous feeling and finally merriment and playfulness, comprise the entire realm of music; the rest-all the terrible,, comic and especially sound imitating (i.e., storms, battles) do not belong to the virgin-pure, heaven-like world of harmony, and are thus esthetically untenable. That is why it is only after composing a concerto does a soloist deserve tile title of an artist... My wish came true. Last year, Servais finished his first cello concerto. I made myself familiar with the concerto very professionally. Servais gave me the piano score en pieds de manche, and took up the cello himself. We played the concerto several times in a row, often pausing to consider more successful or less successful scoring, this or that phrasing. Up to now, the concerto is still new .and fresh for me-for it abounds in original and unfading beauties... In my conversation with Servais I found out not only his knowledge of the instrument's media, but also his profound study of the rules of harmony and full information of the instrumental effects, which for many musicians are terra incognita. The score that lay in front of me was proof that Servais was a great artist... I will tell you only that the principal character of this work is a kind of solemnity moderated by melody -sad and expressive to the highest degree. Servais' melodies are not ordinary phrases consisting of passing notes and embellishments which become trite after a week. They are in fact a constellation of sounds, which a mere talent cannot hope to approach; a constellation that remains eternally young and preserves the music of the old masters fresh and vivid to our days. Servais' modulations are natural, but often surprising, and cause one to think about them at first hearing. In both his concerto and fantasia it is easy to notice some beautiful, simple and easily grasped melodies based on very unexpected chords and where the top voice glides easily and effortlessly over the harmonic bridges, which shows both the composer's solid knowledge of harmony and lively inventiveness..."
Here is, of course, a record of Servais' contemporary, though a person enlightened and learned in music. His appraisal reflected the tastes and apprehension of the epoch, but nevertheless, for over half a century afterwards, Servais' concertos (and fantasias as well) were included in the repertoires of concert cellists.
One cannot disagree with Odojevsky, who emphasized those qualities of the concerto, such as melodic expressiveness, varied mood (solemnity and sadness), inventiveness, audacious harmonies and modulations -which were all indisputably enhanced when performed by Servais himself.
It should be added that in all his three concerto works there is a certain liberty of form. On the one hand, the elements of the classical form are woven in with some features of a French instrumental concerto; on the other-there are the distinct influences of the romantic fantasia. At any rate, Servais, was restricted by the classical concerto frame, but repeatedly violated the classical scheme of the genre.
The Concerto in B Minor Op. 5 consists of an Allegro, preceded by an orchestral exposition, an Adagio cantabile and an Allegro finale. Both Allegros have sonata elements, though modified. Thus in the first movement there are two themes, whose exposition is followed immediately by the development. Divided by short tuttis, the secondary part is presented in the relative major. The main theme, as Odojevsky justly noted, begins with a solemn and energetic recitative, changing to a soft and poetic cantilena:
Proceed to Servais, Part Two
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