Servais

Adrien Francios Servais
Part Two

The modulating recitative leads to the emotional and romantic secondary theme, which is similar in character to the operatic melodies of the time. In fact, there is no recapitulation, and this is partly compensated for by an extensive orchestral tutti, leading attacca to the secondary movement. A feature of this movement (composed in three-part form) is its noble and expressive melody-meditative and fluid. The middle movement is decisive and pathetic, and the music is sometimes pierced by improvisatory passages.

The finale is a sonata allegro with two themes though there is a recapitulation this time. The main theme is much like a scherzo, while the secondary theme is poetic. In the exposition, the secondw ary theme is presented in A Major, and in the recapitulation in B major. The concerto ends in stately coda.

The Morceau de Concert in E Minor Op. 14 is dedicated to Matwey Wialgohorsky. It is actually a one-movement concerto: the Allegro is written in a freely interpreted sonata form, with two developed themes and a recapitulation, which lacks, however, the principal theme and the secondary is played in E Major instead of G Major (as was done in the exposition). The orchestral tutti here is about half as long as it was in the B Minor concerto.

Both themes are of cantilena character. The first combines the decisiveness and spirit of the introductory phrases with poetic melancholy. The second theme is smoother and quieter. Their "interpretation," as was Servais' custom, is of virtuoso character. A solo rendering is sometimes alternated with a more or less developed tutti.

The transformation of the three-movement classical cycle into a one-movement composition was typical of the romantic era. It should be noted that this work of Servais appeared even before the one-movement concerto-poem of Liszt.

The most interesting of Servais' concertos is the A Minor (published posthumously). It combines the features of the classical (the form) and the romantic (character of musical images, melody-often close to that of Liszt, improvisational nature, etc.) styles. Though in form it is more rigid than his other concertos, there is much in common with his fantasias. Besides technical devices, the similarity is revealed in the cadenza of the first movement, and in the recitative passages of the second. The Concerto consists of the tragic Allegro moderato (sonata allegro with the double exposition), the expressive-oratorical Adagio appassionato, and the Rondo finale.

The pedagogical value of this work lies in the rich use of the cello technique, of devices such as passage technique, double-stop technique (thirds, sixths, octaves), broken octaves, staccato, spiccato, etc.

The form of the three-movement Concerto militaire in C Minor, Op. 18, is more developed, and consists of a two-theme Allegro moderato (with an introductory and finale tutti), an Andante religioso, and a Rondo (Allegro, ma non troppo).

The energetic and pronounced main theme of the first movement, the "drum" rhythm and the trumpet nature of the introductory orchestral tutti, as well as the refrain in the Rondo, justify the programmatic title of the concerto, which was a tribute to the epoch. The middle movement -cantilena and graceful -creates an impressive contrast to the outward two. Virtuoso solo cadenzas appear in all three movements, with the orchestra's role limited mainly to accompaniment. Only in the introductory tutti in the fast movements and in the concluding part of the first movement does the orchestra add coloring to the composition.

In many aspects, the rich and varied technique in Servais' works was innovatory, and typical of the virtuoso style. It requires primarily performing ease and facility, finger fluency and a complete command of the virtuoso strokes. Much in Servais' technique was determined by the principles of improvisation (cadenzas, recitatives). The cadenzas especially have frequent rapid legato passages.

Special notice should be made of the following innovations in the left hand technique: delivery in the octave progressions with the thumb and the second finger while the higher voice is ornamented with a trill; combination of arco and pizzicato played by the left hand; passages by thirds, sixths and tenths; broken octaves from the upper string; octaves with figurations in the lower voice:


The innovatory left hand technique in the previous and subsequent examples (16-18) is often connected with interesting fingering devices: broadening of the position by delaying the thumb, which was later called "Davydov's hinge"; the use of the fourth finger in the thumb position; the third and second finger interchange in descending chromatic passages; one-finger performance of ascending and descending chromatic passages, with which anothe ' r virtuoso device-left hand staccato-is connected; "alternative" fingering; and the "self-accompaniment" device which Davydov was to make extensive use of later. The passages by natural harmonics on all strings are often used, as well as octave harmonics (Romberg had not yet used artificial harmonics): chords and double stops with open strings or harmonics:

The right hand technique is characterized by gracious "jumping" strokes, as well as staccato, portato (in tragic cantilena) and different kinds of arpeggios. Here is an interesting example, when Servais suggested that 42 staccato notes be played "in one motion of the bow ":

Light "jumping" sautille strokes and the flying spiccato can be found in almost all of Servais' fantasias. One can even come across a ricochet stroke which is rare in the music for the cello. Leaps over two octaves are also of a degree of difficulty:

Servais demands of all those performing his compositions good command of the expressive dynamically variable cantilena, whose character was indicated as cantabile, ben cantabile, dolce, soave, con espressivo, etc.

The ponticello device might be considered rare enough in Servais' epoch, but he used it in the second variation of the fantasia La Fille du Rigiment.

All this wide-ranging and in many aspects innovatory (as it has already been said) technique, which was in perfect harmony with the artist's performing style, marked great progress in broadening the expressive and technical resources of the cello. At a time when romantic virtuosity was in full flower, this technique largely corresponded to and often even determined the substance of music.

With the crises of the vittuoso-romantic style, the artistic value of Servais' works began to decline. By the middle of the last century, and far more often in the 1860-70s, there had already appeared critical opinions of those works. Today some of Servais' compositions retain only their pedagogical significance (for example, the fantasias on the theme from the Schubert's waltz arid from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and, to an extent his First Concerto). But in his time they were totally in conformity with the public's tastes, and contributed to a growing interest in the cello not only of audiences but also of composers as well, who found in those works new and diversely rich technical means of expression unique to the instrument. This is where the historical significance of Servais' creative output lies.


Rubinstein

Servais' concert career was tied to Russia for the long period of 1830-1860, when he associated with Russian musicians and music lovers such as Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Dargomyzhsky,21 Aleksey Verstovsky and Vladimir Odojevsky, the Wialgohorsky brothers, Nikolay Golitzin and Anton Rubinstein, Aleksey Lvov and Nikolay Yusupov, Nikolay Markevitch and Vasiliy Botkin, Vasiliy Bezekirsky and Karl Davydov.

Servais visited Russia no less than ten times, often remaining there for long periods of time, and appearing not only in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, but also in Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Kursk and many other cities of the country (including Siberia), especially in the Baltics (Riga, Vilno, Derpt, Mitava) and Poland (Warsaw, Krakov, Lublin).

Servais was to win warm and lasting love in Russia, and always spoke with delight of Russian audiences. He performed in public concerts as well as in music salons and at all kinds of benefit performances. There are records of his appearances in Russia in 1839, 1840, 1844, 1845, 1846, 1851, 1852, 1856, 1859, and 1866.

Servais expressed his interest in Russian music and Russian musicians by his Fantasia on two Russian themes (by Alabiev and Varlamov), the fantasias, Souvenir de St. Petersburg and Souvenir de Kiev, a transcription of Glinka's Somnenije (he was acquainted with the composer and heard his performance), and by his dedication of some compositions to Mikhail and Matwey Wialgohorsky. Servais played several times at the home of the Wialgohorskys, who thought very highly of the Belgian virtuoso. Matwey Wialgohorsky lent him his Stradivarius cello for the St. Petersburg performances before Servais himself bought an instrument by the master in 1841. The Russian Princess Yusupova, who greatly admired his talent, financed the purchase, and the grateful artist dedicated to her one of his fantasias on Russian songs Op. 15.

Servais also happened to play at the home of Nikolay Golitzin, who seldom missed his concerts, and whose opinions of them even appeared in the press. Servais played at Aleksey Lvov's musical evenings. Impressed by the cellist's playing, Lvov composed a concert violin and cello duet which he called Duel, and played it with Servais.

In 1852, Anton Rubinstein dedicated to the Belgian artist his first violoncello sonata, which he probably played with Servais as well. In Belgium, Servais often played "Chant d'amour," a piece composed for him by Nikolay Yusupov. In the spring of 1866, Karl Davydov appeared in a Servais concert, with the two playing the main part in the work for eight violoncellos which the Belgian virtuoso had composed.

Servais made frequent appearances in Kiev in the 1850s during the so-called "contracts" of the "twelfth-day" fair. It was there that he befriended Nikolay Markevitch (an outstanding pianist, friend of Glinka and pupil of John Field) and the cellist Alexander Storozhenko, whom he tutored. At their homes, Servais listened to and jotted down Ukranian melodies, which he later used in his compositions and improvisations. With Markevitch and Storozhenko, he played Russian songs and romances for voice and cello.

Poets were also among Servais' many Russian admirers-in particular, Mikhail Koltzov and Grigoriy Danilevsky who dedicated some of their poems to him.

Between tours of Russia, Servais did not break off with Russia and his Russian friends; he kept up an ongoing correspondence with them. He also frequently played compositions on Russian themes when abroad. He wrote an article for the Figaro of Paris about Vladimir Kashperov's opera Maria Tudor, heartily welcomed Russian musicians who came to Belgium (he evidently met Dargomyzhsky there too), and helped to ensure that their music was published and performed.

Servais' initial appearances in St. Petersburg immediately evoked unanimous admiration. St. Petersburg musicians and music-lovers, who were well acquainted with Romberg's style, were captivated by the new character of performance which the Belgian artist had presented, and were attracted by his unparalleled virtuosity, expressiveness and emotional musical phrasing, and his elevated singing full of artistic brio on the instrument. Unlike Romberg's distant and "academic" interpretation of the cello, Servais' virtuosity appeared to be gracious, elegant and brilliant. Bright, poetic and fascinating playing coupled with his compositions made Servais a universal favorite of the Russian concert public.

Odojevsky's first opinion of Servais is a great revelation: "He who knows only Romberg's method can hardly comprehend Servais' playing. It never occurred to anybody to play with such boldness as he does; his playing abounds in sudden and unexpected octave passages which until now were carefully prepared by cellists and kept hidden until the end of a difficult piece. It is amazing how in a chromatic scale, his left hand runs down as far as the bridge in a rapid and spasmodic allegro. The scale seems about to break off any moment and there would be a false sound to punish the audacious musician -but nothing of the kind, you will not hear anything out of tune, not in the slightest. Servais' method of playing in general presents much that is new and unexpected; under his bow the cello has lost the solid, sedate, quiet and, to be frank, somewhat monotonous style of performance once conferred on it by Romberg. The violoncello is now striding in step with the century and has the passionate and violent character as all other works of art. Some attempts of the kind have already been made, but Servais has succeeded above all others. Servais' tone is expressive to the highest degree. . ."

In his next letter to Moscow, Odojevsky again spoke with rapture about the "wonderful magician" Servais and his expressive and touching tone on the violoncello in particular.

Odojevsky was not alone in his appraisal. In an article written over the pen-name "Russian cello-lover," Nikolay Golitzin said: "With the first sounds of the cello - this king of all instruments - we recognized the master. There is not a single artistic quality that this unsurpassed musician does not possess. The sound is full, vigorous and flows right to the soul, the tone is expressive, with all possible shades which distinguish true inspiration. . ." And further, he speaks enthusiastically about the consummate virtuosity of the artist, who performed "with absolute precision and impeccable rapidity all the most complicated passages. Staccato, chromatic scales, octaves, harmonics, the most dangerous bounces, arpeggios in all positions, double stops and all the greatest difficulties that one can only imagine of a cellist-are child's play to Servais . . ."

In his letter to Vladimir Stasov of April 15, 184 1, Alexander Serov spoke very highly of Servais' gift "of rounding every musical idea by his playing-in a word, his phrasing... Here is a veritable genius, because there are no rules for such shades. . ." "I think," he wrote in the same letter, "that in his hands the cello acquires its true character, the courtly tenderness of the male voice, the passion that casts a spell over the hearts of the listeners."

The review by his contemporary -the outstanding Russian cellist, musician and enlightener Nikolay Golitzin- is of particular interest both as an example of advanced Russian music criticism of the time, and from the point of view of the general appreciation of Servais' art: "Servais is a true genious. His playing is unlike anyone else's: it is entirely his own creation. His works are very original, melodious and are outstanding for their absolutely new passages. But-alas! This has all been composed for himself alone; who else would dare plunge himself into these terrible difficulties? ... Servais possesses everything. There is only one thing left for him to do: to curb his ardour, and let the strings not thrill too long under his fingers in their sound...

"Servais has all the qualities of the premi~re violoncellist in the world. As he has all of everything, there is nothing for him to acquire-it would be better had he reduced some of his mastership. Then his playing, already so touching, would be more tender and attractive. Any artist should be happy who is told: "You have already passed the Pillars of Hercules; step back and you will be perfect ."

Golitzin and Odojevsky concurred in their opinion about Servais. His style obviously corresponded to the esthetics of the time. But the difference is that Golitzin, a superb cellist himself, who had a thorough knowledge of the nature of the instrument, and who could not restrain his profound reverence for the expressiveness and brilliant virtuosity of his Belgian colleague, was unable to avoid mentioning Servais' exaggerated affection, which he thought was caused by superfluous vigor and excessive vibrato. Servais' works initially seemed to Golitzin to be beyond the power of anyone but the composer himself. But since Servais' technique was absolutely in conformity with the nature of the cello, in the decades that followed, several foreign and Russian cellists (Golitzin, Meshkov, Terentjev, Kologrivov, Davydov) were able to attain the same heights.

Servais' Russian contemporaries all agreed in emphasizing the outstanding innovatory features of his style. The singing tones of his cello were compared to the singing of the glorious Italian tenor Rubini; his cantilena was melodious and expressive to the extent no other could achieve, and featured a warmth and richness of color. As well as noting the virtuosity, the Moscow critic Nikolay Melgunov made a special point of the vigor and inspiration of Servais' playing.

But along with the words of praise of the Russian reviewers there were signs of criticism. Even in 1846, a German paper published a review from St. Petersburg signed "From an enlightened artadmirer," and had many features in common with the previously cited Leipzig review of 1844. "One cannot help regretting," wrote the St. Petersburg correspondent, "that this virtuoso who is possessed of the rarest qualities applies his brilliant abilities to tasteless trickery... He could have joined in combat with giantsi but he is laboring to win mosquitoes. Besides Liszt, it is hard to find another talent who could create the furor that Servais did; but the pianist surpasses him in spirit."

Similar critical opinions appeared also in Russian publications in the 1850s. Another St. Petersburg reviewer wrote: "Strange, but one must admit that Servais' playing is not as impressive as it once was, as if the sound of his cello has lost some of its former completeness, power and sincerity, which used to captivate any audience -the connoisseur and the ignorant alike. The too-often repeated pp, harmonics, difficulties and tricks make one think that Mr. Servais prefers superficial effects to the inner sense of the performance. This sudden and radical change might seem strange in the playing of a musician who has reached the heights of his artistry. Nevertheless, Mr. Servais is a great master without rival, although one would no doubt regret that the impression of his playing has been fading."

It is really unfair to speak of a "sudden and radical change" in Servais' playing. First, the critic was referring to a concert in St. Petersburg after an almost six-year interval; second -one should not underestimate the fact that during Servais' initial visits to Russia, many listeners were to a certain extent blinded by the exceptional brilliancy and sweet melodiousness of his performances. And finally it should not be forgotten that both the tastes of the knowledgeable Russian musical circles (they now set higher standards) and Servais' style as well had evolved. Though an excellent musician, he unknowingly emphasized the spectacular side of his playing in deference to the public's hackneyed tastes, and later he probably tried to use this aspect to conceal his waning virtuosity.

In 1857, Alexander Serov was effusive in his praise of Servais as a remarkable virtuoso, and speaking of how "excellently he sang" Glinka's Somnenije on the cello, pointed out that the epoch of virtuosos had already passed. "We have become accustomed to and have bowed before everything 'wonderful' in the realm of virtuoso music, and now the wonderful ceases to be surprising-for those who really love music, too little remains... after Servais' concerts." Even though he gave Servais his due as a master of can tilena and virtuosity, Serov had already not accepted his compositions. But in 1850's many Russians were still under the spell of the cellist's playing. In 1852 Danilevsky wrote a poem "After a concert of Servais."

According to Markevitch, Servais thought very highly of John Field's classical school and appreciated the form, plasticity, manner of expression and phrasing of his performance. The Belgian artist, who himself had traces of affectation in his playing censured the over-use of facile effects and "tricks" that were characteristic of the violinist Appolinary Kontsky, whom he heard in Kiev and whom he contrasted with his compatriot Henri Vieuxtemps.

So it cannot be claimed that Servais was totally unaware of new requirements of the time. He tried to include in his repertoire works by other composers, such as Gounod's Meditation or the first prelude from Bach's Well-tempered Clavier, and some pieces by Glinka (his Somnenije in particular)36 and Chopin pieces which he had transcribed.37When in Kiev in 1852, he played the violoncello solo in the overture of Guillaume Tell, and while in St. Petersburg in 1857, played his Fantasia Souvenir de Spa and also appeared in his performance of a Haydn quartet and a Beethoven quintet. But this did not change the general inclination of his virtuosity, which suffered somewhat from the superficiality of the drawing-room.

Servais was the target of more criticism during his last appearances in St. Petersburg and Moscow in February-May 1866, several months before his death. On that occasion he toured with his son Joseph, a talented violoncellist and his own pupil.

The tragedy of the Servais type of virtuoso was that the progress of music and the tastes of the musicians and knowledgeable musiclovers had become much more advanced, leaving them far behind. The time of romantic virtuoso aspirations had yielded to the spirit of the new age, to new esthetics, to the requirements of more significance and better expression of more profound content. The Russian critic Pavel Makarov left a graphic description of this idea in his review written during the last year of Servais'life: "Everybody worships Servais and finds so much charm in his playing that I really do not know what to do, whether to write about him or not? At his recitals Servais played his own compositions, i.e., early stale and antediluvian forms of fantasias on meaningless themes from Italian and French operas, the most unbearably banal of which was... his fantasia on the opera Lestocq... His playing is based on superficiality that passes for feeling: he either nods charmingly, or gracefully waves his left hand when passing to an open string -quite 'chic playing', I must confess. But there is not the force or completeness which the playing of our Russian cellist Davydov truly abounds in. Servais' bowing -certainly does have more lilt than Davydov's, but this very lilt is so full of the unending sugary vibrato that one would, no doubt, like to cleanse one's ears with full and clear sounds, as one would like to have some plain water after eating candies. In his time, Servais might certainly have been the king of all cellists and surprised Europe with his playing -probably so, but his time has flown away irretrievably..."

It can be seen that the Russian critics, at least their best representatives, highly appreciated Servais when he was at the peak of his artistry (recall the opinions of Odojevsky and Golitzin), but were completely aware of the decline of the artistic significance of his performing style, to say nothing of works, in the final period of Servais' concert activity, when it was unable to meet the requirements of the foremost musicians of the time.

In addition to his extraordinary virtuosity and its absolutely new quality, Servais' expressive and touching tone on the cello was especially" appreciated in Russia. To what Odojevsky had earlier written in his review, one can add the words of Vasily Bezekirsky, the famous Russian cellist of the last century who wrote about his acquaintance with Servais: "He is a person from whom one could learn the art of singing on the instrument. In that wonderful art, he had no rival.

The cellist's brilliant, colorful, light, gracious and impeccable technique created the impression of novelty, singularity and of being see m-ingly beyond the possibility of all others.

It is absolutely true that Servais, in the same degree as Romberg, contributed to making the cello popular in Russia, to the development of links between Russia and Belgium in the 19th century.

When determining the role and place of Servais in the history of the art of the violoncello, one should keep in mind the unity of his performing style and his compositions for the cello, and the exceptional harmony of both with the requirements of the epoch of romantic virtuosity.

A follower of the foremost representatives of this epoch, such as Paganini and Liszt, Servais brought poetry and 61an, color and inspiration to the art of the violoncello. Romantic improvisation in performance and composition, extensive use of the fantasia form and variational devices of development had replaced the classical rules of the preceding period.

As we have seen, Servais' romantic virtuoso style included not only bright and courageous, and in many ways innovatory use of the brilliant and colorful violoncello technique (he enriched it with light passages, chromatics, double stops, chords, harmonics, combination of arco and pizzicato, gracious "jumping" strokes, staccato), but also a qualitatively different approach to the use of expressive singing on the cello.

Although as romantic virtuoso style found itself in crises, and the art of Servais, in which affectation and drawing-room superficiality gradually came to predominate, no longer met the more profound esthetic demands of advanced musicians and listeners, it nevertheless did influence both performing cellists and composers who wrote for the cello in the last century.

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