Critical Notes Series: Joseph Servais

Joseph Servais - Six Romances and Prelude (First Edition)

Joseph Servais (185085) was the youngest son of Belgian cellist-composer François Servais and Sophie Feygin. Joseph followed in his father's footsteps to become a virtuoso cellist and his successor at the Brussels Conservatory. Joseph had an illustrious career as a cellist during his relatively short life. He left behind a few compositions, including a cello concerto, a string quartet, a half dozen Romances for cello and piano (one orchestrated), a couple of preludes, and around a dozen other incomplete works. The string quartet was published with his brother Franz's supervision in 1900. Most notably, Joseph Servais was the dedicatee of the Second Cello Concerto by Henry Vieuxtemps, a set of melodies by Désiré Artôt, and Aubade mauresque, Op. 49 by Edouard de Hartog.

The present edition includes six Romances and Prelude, published for the first time. All sources come from a private collection.

Romance in A minor is of striking beauty and nostalgia of his father's generation. It is the longest of the six romances. There are several sources for this work. In its early, short version, this work was the fourth of the numbered Romances. We chose the source that was the same as the orchestrated version. This source is also the most complete. Slurring was done in pencil, and there were sometimes several slurring options. We chose to print the slurring consistent with the rest of the piece. Crossed-out notes were not printed in this edition. The fingerings are original to the source.

Romance in B-flat major does not have a title in the source. However, it is in the same style as the shorter Romances. It exists in a single source. Romance in C major is placid, accompanied by repeated triplets. It exists in two sources, one of which lacks a tempo marking. The three numbered Romances each exist in two sources. Each copy looks like a working copy. The most complete copy was chosen for publication. Crossed-out notes were not printed.

Prelude in A minor exists in several sketches, as well as a working copy and a fair copy. The fair copy was used for our edition. The working copy is dated 14 February 1882 and is dedicated to the amateur cellist Paolo Rotondo (ca. 182796). Rotondo is also the dedicatee of Guido Papini's short piece Mes adieux à Naples and Giuseppe Martucci's Cello Sonata, Op. 52. Based on the difficulty of the pieces dedicated to Rotondo, he must have been a very able cellist. He was also a fine-instrument collector. Servais's Prelude is a perpetual motion in ternary form. The first section is in A minor and E-flat major. The middle section is in G major and C minor. The first section repeats almost verbatim and ends in A major. The source does not contain fingerings. Fingerings in our edition were provided by the editor. The cello part lacks dynamics. Dynamics from the piano part may be used in the cello part for more contrast, especially in mm. 157–178. "Ritenuto" was spelled "Retenuto" in the source; this was corrected.

Thank you to Peter François for his expertise and help in obtaining the sources for this edition.​

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