Servais, Adrien François
Cello Concerto in B minor Op. 5 (Piano Reduction/Solo)
Preface to the full score:
Concerto en Si mineur pour le Violoncelle, opus 5 (ca. 1834)
Adrien François Servais was born on November 6, 1807 in Halle, near Brussels. He took his first steps in music and lived there until his death, in November 26, 1866.
Servais made his first appearance in 1833, in Paris. This performance launched his international career as a cellist. During 33 years, he toured all over Europe and played for almost all the royal courts. He played with famous orchestras such as the Wiener Philharmoniker and the one of the Royal Philharmonic Society, and with virtuosos such as Franz Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, Felix Mendelssohn, Henri Vieuxtemps and Clara Schumann. His cello from 1701, called the ‘Servais Strad’, is exhibited in the Smithsonian Institute, in Washington.
Servais enjoyed great fame in his lifetime. He was often called ‘the Paganini of the cello’ by music personalities such as Hector Berlioz or Gioachino Rossini.
Servais is regarded as one of the greatest cellists of his time. As a cello virtuoso, he made a valuable contribution to the development of cello technique. He extended the technical possibilities and always played with an endpin; this was soon to be copied. From 1848 until his death, Servais gave classes at the Brussels Conservatory. The repertoire for cello being rather limited in the first half of the 19th century, Servais started to compose his own works. He composed more than a hundred works for cello, usually accompanied on the piano, by a quartet or a symphony orchestra. His best known works are the opus 1 to 21, published by Schott in Mainz between 1838 and 1863. And among them: Souvenir de Spa, opus 2; Fantaisie et Variations brillantes sur la Valse de Schubert, intitulée Le Désir, opus 4; Concerto en Si mineur, opus 5; Le Barbier de Séville, grande fantaisie, opus 6; Fantaisie burlesque (ou le Carnaval de Venise), opus 9; 6 Caprices pour Violoncelle, opus 11; Morceau de Concert, opus 14; La Fille du Régiment. Fantaisie et Variations, opus 16; O cara memoria: Fantaisie et Variations, opus 17; Concerto Militaire, opus 18 and Souvenir de Bade. Grande Fantaisie, opus 20.
Together with the violonist Joseph Ghys (1801-1848) of Ghent, he composed the Variations brillantes et concertantes sur l’air “God Save the King”; with Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881), he composed Grand Duo sur les motifs de l’Opéra Les Huguenots de G. Meyerbeer; with the violonist Hubert Léonard (1819-1890) of Liège, he composed 4 duets for cello and violin and with the pianist Jacques Gregoir (1817-1876) of Antwerp, he composed about 30 duets for cello and piano.
Although most of his work has been published in several editions, Servais composed mainly for himself. Most of the time, he was playing his own compositions. This approach was successful: the audience and the critics were always full of praise. Nowadays, his music is played and broadcasted all over the world and appears regularly on CDs.
The Concerto en Si mineur has probably been composed around 1834. Servais played it in London with the famous orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society.
The composition was published by B. Schott’s Söhne in Mainz as his opus 5 (plate number 9421) and also published around the same time – probably even slightly earlier – by Simon Richault in Paris (plate number 8457.R). Later, more editions of the work have been issued, among which revised editions by Ernest Demunck, Friedrich Grützmacher, Jules Léopold-Loëb, Wilhelm Jeral, Johannes Klingenberg and Hugo Becker.
Servais dedicated his Concerto to king William II of the Netherlands, before whom he played in 1837. In 1848 the king dubbed Servais knight of the Order of the Oak Crown.
The Finnish cellist Seeli Toivio (who will play this concerto in Brussels and Antwerp on November 8 and 9, 2007, accompanied by the deFilharmonie orchestra conducted by Paul Watkins) wrote about Servais’ opus 5: ‘This concerto is challenging for cellist with its various difficulties for left hand technique. Among others, those are octaves, high jumps and double stops. The hard passages require a very fluent left hand technique. When the difficulties are overcome, the piece opens for the cellist as a happy, lively and beautiful concerto.
In my experience, the most difficult about this concerto is the first movement. This is because of the fast passages especially in the middle of the movement, and also because of the hard double stops towards the end of the movement. There are also some high trill-passages which I have found moderately challenging but also hilarious to play. The second movement is surprisingly beautiful. The last movement’s ending is quite fast for the right hand and can cause trouble if the movement is started in a very fast tempo.’
© Peter François, 2007 (historian and chairman of the Servais Society)
This publication is based on the first edition issued by Richault. It has been provided by the Servais Society. The orchestra material can be asked to the Servais Society (Beertsestraat 45, 1500 Halle, Belgium). This score has been published in collaboration with the Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek..
>>> Deutsches und flämisches Vorwort zur Partitur lesen > HERE