Critical Notes Series: Servais's Souvenir de Czernowitz

Souvenir de Czernowitz, Op. 21 (Urtext Edition)

In the second half of the 1800s, composers turned to the eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian for inspiration for their works. The most common themes came from popular music by Hungarian composers and Roma street musicians. However, some composers went to modern-day Romania and Ukraine for inspiration. The latter was the direction Servais chose for his last published opus.

Czernowitz (Чернівці) exchanged hands several times during its history. At the time of the composition of Souvenir de Czernowitz, this city belonged to the Duchy of Bukovina. Servais visited Czernowitz in 1857 and 1859.

The Souvenir is dedicated to his student and composer Ernest Jonas. According to Servais specialist Peter François and the project by cellist and researcher Geoffrey Dean, "Ernst [Ernest] Jonas (ca. 1845-1889) was a member of the BSO cello section from 1882 to 1886. He is said to have been a 'favorite student' of A. F. Servais, living at his celebrated teacher's house at the end of his studies in Brussels. In the spring of 1864 Jonas and Servais toured France together."

The Souvenir is in 3 parts, using music typically played at weddings by Jewish klezmer bands and other similar ensembles. All of the themes are borrowed from Carl Mikuli's four-volume collection Airs nationaux roumains (12 selections in each volume) published ca. 1855 by Kallenbach in Lwów (Lviv). Kallenbach had an affiliated firm Edward Winlarz in Czernowitz. The first part, "Chant du Berger," is a doina, an improvisatory piece largely accompanied by a static bass. This melody comes from vol. 1 of the Mikuli collection called "Doina" (No. 2). The second part is a lullaby "Berceuse. Chant des Nourrices." This lullaby begins with a lilting melody followed by a more virtuosic variation. This melody comes from vol. 3 of the Mikuli collection called "Puiculița Mea" (No. 4). The finale is a Romanian Serba (Sârba) called "La Poste."  This melody comes from vol. 2 of the Mikuli collection called "Corăbiáscă" (No. 8).  It was also included in International Hebrew Wedding Music (ed. Wolff Kostakowski, published in 1916) under the title "Rumanian Horra and Serba" as the Serba portion on page 12. The first part of this selection is commonly known as "Bessarabian Zhok" or "Bessarabian Hora."

Servais was not the only cellist to use Mikuli's collection as a source for his fantasia. Feri Kletzer, a Hungarian cellist, used several selections from Mikuli for his Zigeunerweisen, Op. 24 (published in 1876).

Our edition is based on the first edition by Schott published in September 1864. The Ernest de Munck edition was also consulted in preparation of this edition. Deviations from the text are marked with editorial markings. The first edition comes from the Cello Library, Alfred Richter Lugano. The sources were graciously provided by the Servais Society.

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