SERVAIS URTEXT SERIES
The Servais Urtext Series presents a number of Urtext editions of the most famous works by François Servais (1807-1866), made by Yuriy Leonovich in collaboration with the Servais Society. The printed versions can be ordered through the Servais Society. They are also available as digital downloads.
Below is a list of editions currently available for purchase.
Say the word "caprice," and our minds immediately go to Paganini and Piatti. However, other composers also wrote caprices as studies, among them François Servais (1807-66). Servais was a Belgian cello virtuoso and composer. As was typical of the Romanic Era composers, the bulk of his output included opera fantasies and variations on popular themes. Our new edition of Servais's 6 Caprices is based on the two first editions, Richault (French) and Schott (German), graciously provided by the Servais Society, faithfully combined into a beautiful, newly engraved, critical edition. Our edition is the first to include a score of the two cello parts. All the textual variants between the two first editions are noted in the footnotes. Our edition also comes with separate parts, which include Servais's original fingerings.
Caprice No. 2 is a perpetual motion in rondo form, exploring the spiccato bow stroke. This Caprice was arranged for cello and piano by the Dutch cellist Louis Lübeck (1838–1904). The cello part is virtually the same as Servais’s original, however, Lübeck adds several fingerings for clarification as well as very specific dynamics to aid with phrasing. The piano part is freely composed, rarely using material from the original second cello part. This arrangement would make a brilliant encore.
Caprice based on themes from Rossini’s opera Le Comte Ory exists in two versions, one for cello and piano and the other for two cellos. In both versions, the cello solo part is identical.
In form, the Caprice is an elder sibling of Fantaisie sur deux Airs Russes, Op. 13. Both works are in two parts. The first part of the Caprice contains two variations on the a cappella ensemble from Act II, Scene 1, "Oh voi generosa vedete qual pena." Specifically, the theme comes from the optional piano part of the piano score. The second part of the Caprice comes from the Count's Cavatina "Astro sereno brilli" (Act I, Scene 3).
Carnaval de Venise was first penned under the title Fantaisie Burlesque, dedicated to Arkady Rachmaninoff, the
paternal grandfather of the famous Russian composer. The first known performance of this work was on 3 September 1838 in Halle, Belgium. The published title page retains the title of Fantaisie Burlesque but adds the subtitle ou le Carnaval de Venise. Three early sources of Fantaisie Burlesque are housed at the Brussels Conservatory. The first two sources are in the hand of Ulysse Claes. The MS 45.116 is an autograph. The progression of the sources points in the direction of MS 45.106 (9) coming first, as it is a working copy and is heavily revised. The next is MS 45.119, a fair copy of the previous revision. Finally, MS 45.116 most closely resembles the printed version, although it is still fairly different in many respects, it contains the finale that was originally used in Fantaisie élégante and Fantaisie et Variations No. 18, the early versions of Souvenir de St. Pétersbourg. The engraver’s copies of the piano version (Mus.Schott.Ha 11079-2) and the orchestra version (Mus.Schott.Ha 11080-2) are housed at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich.
Many composers used this theme of “Cara mamma mia” for their variation sets, including Niccoló Paganini and
Heinrich Ernst for violin, and Friedrich Dotzauer (published in 1850) for cello.
Carnaval de Venise, like many other fantasies by Servais, is constructed in variation form. The introduction is based on a song about Pulcinella. This melody makes another appearance later in the Fantaisie finale beginning in m. 278. The main theme of the work is the aforementioned melody “Cara mamma mia.”
The Fantaisie has two key centers and some chromatic peculiarities. The introduction centers around the key of A, both major and minor. The recitative that follows begins in A minor and makes the music seem like it will return to A major, but then abruptly turns to C major for the “Cara” theme. The “Cara” theme is treated with two variations,
exploring octaves, trills, up-bow staccatos, and the entire range of the cello. Variations 1 and 2 are followed by a short, orchestral interlude and a longer, unnumbered, slow variation in E major. The next interlude is lengthier than the first. The finale begins with the Pulcinella melody in A major. In one of the Pulcinella iterations, at mm. 286-293, the tonality is obscured with chromaticism. The rest of the work is filled with virtuosic arpeggiation in the solo part, while the orchestra mixes the Pulcinella and “Cara” themes. The section that begins in m. 318 was originally used as the finale of Fantaisie élégante and Fantaisie et Variations No. 18.
Servais composed three concertos for the cello and orchestra as well as a Morceau de Concert, a one-movement concert piece. The Concerto in B minor, Op. 5 was the first work in the genre, composed c. 1836. The Concerto was dedicated to King William II (Guillaume II) of the Netherlands. While other works were dedicated to William II, his son William III received many more dedications such as David Popper’s Polonaise Op. 14, Henri Vieuxtemps’s Cello Concerto No. 1, and Amboise Thomas’s opera Le songe d'une nuit d'été.
Servais’s B-minor Concerto consists of three movements. The outer movements are in sonata form, although the recapitulation of the first movement is truncated after the orchestral return of the first theme. After the grand pause, the second movement, Adagio cantabile, enters with strumming strings accompanying a serenade-like melody in the cello part. The finale is a tour-de-force for the soloist. The second theme of the finale is initially presented in the subtonic key of A major, returning in B major in the recapitulation. While there is no tempo change indicated, the coda of the finale is typically taken at a slower tempo because of the increase in the surface rhythm. This coda was, arguably, influenced by Rossini and Donizetti. The motive found in the upper strings could have in turn influenced the coda of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. The major-minor figuration in the last few measures of the solo part is similar to the one found at the end of Servais’s Le Désir.
Servais composed three concertos for the cello and orchestra as well as a Morceau de Concert (called Concerto No. 2 in the autograph). The Concerto Militaire was the last concerto published during Servais’s lifetime. It was dedicated to King William III (Guillaume III) of the Netherlands. King William III received many other dedications such as David Popper’s Polonaise Op. 14, Henry Vieuxtemps’s Cello Concerto No. 1, and Ambroise Thomas’s opera Le songe d'une nuit d'été.
The “concerto militaire” subgenre has been explored by many composers after the French Revolution. The works typically include two or three marches, depending on if the slow movement is a funeral march, and usually include an extra set of percussion such as a snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, and a triangle, not typically found in early-Romantic Era concertos. Other representative works from this subgenre include Concerto Militaire by Jacques Offenbach and the Sixth Cello Concerto by Bernhard Romberg.
Servais reused a theme from Souvenir d'Anvers in the G-major section of the Rondo.
Fantaisie et Variations brillantes sur la Valse de Schubert intitulée le Désir, Op. 4 (Urtext Edition, Piano Version)
Fantaisie et Variations brillantes sur la Valse de Schubert intitulée le Désir, Op. 4 (Urtext Edition, Quintet Version)
Fantaisie et Variations brillantes sur la Valse de Schubert intitulée le Désir began its life as “Hommage à Beethoven.” Although the waltz was rightly published under Franz Schubert’s name by Diabelli ca. 1822 as “Trauer oder Sehnsuchts Waltzer,” it was misattributed by another publisher as being by Beethoven. After this misattribution, the waltz became known as being by Beethoven. Carl Czerny’s ca. 1821 variations on this theme are simply known as “Variationen über einen beliebten Wiener-Walzer.” Friedrich Kummer still attributes his variations to be on a theme by Beethoven in 1835, but by 1844 Servais had renamed his “Hommage” to a “Fantaisie” on the theme by Schubert. However, Servais left “Le Désir” as the subtitle of the waltz instead of the original “Trauerwalzer” or “Sehnsuchtwalzer.”
Fantaisie et Variations sur des motifs de l'Opéra la Fille du Régiment de Donizetti, Op. 16 (Urtext Edition, Piano Version)
Fantaisie et Variations sur des motifs de l'Opéra la Fille du Régiment de Donizetti, Op. 16 (Urtext Edition, Quintet Version)
Fantaisie et Variations sur des motifs de l'Opéra la Fille du Régiment de Donizetti, Op. 16 was among Servais’s more famous works, especially posthumously. It influenced the next generation of Romantic era composers like Karl Davydov, David Popper, and Antonín Dvořák.
The Fantaisie et Variations is in 5 parts, with all of the sections having A, either major or minor, as the tonal center. The opening theme of the Fantaisie et Variations is a minor version of “Chacun le sait chacun le dit.” This is the only section where the solo cello has an obligatory tacet. A recitative, based on “La voilà! La voilà...” follows the introduction. The theme and four variations on “Chacun le sait chacun le dit…” are the centerpiece of the Fantaisie. Each variation explores one or two techniques: var. 1 – long shifts and string crossings; var. 2 – long bows and syncopated bowing; var. 3 – artificial harmonics; var. 4 – octaves. It is important to note that David Popper’s Etude Op. 73, No. 38 is based on the figuration found in mm. 225-232 of this Fantaisie, a figure that Victor Herbert also used in his Second Cello Concerto. The Fantaisie continues with the Romance “Il faut partir mes bons compagnons d'armes” and finishes with the Finale, based on “De cet aveu si tendre…” The figuration in mm. 324-337 was famously memorialized in the first movement of Antonín Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, Op. 104.
Fantaisie La Romantique (Urtext Edition, Piano Version)
Fantaisie La Romantique (Urtext Edition, Quintet Version)
Fantaisie La Romantique is one of Servais’s earliest successes as a composer. The first known performance of the work occurred on 6 December 1834; it was one of his major concert pieces he programmed for almost a decade. Fantaisie La Romantique exists in versions for cello with piano accompaniment and with string quintet accompaniment. It also likely existed in a version with orchestra as the phrase “grand orchestre” is found in the first violin part. The autograph cello solo part is signed “Jan Poumbak,” Servais’s whimsical pseudonym.
Unlike many of Servais’s works that were based on a single theme or a set of themes from a unified work, Fantaisie La Romantique may be classified as a potpourri. In the early 1800s, potpourris contained popular, often unrelated, melodies. Other potpourris for cello and orchestra include Carl Maria von Weber’s Op. 20 and Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Op. 95.
The original version of Fantaisie La Romantique began with a dramatic, 31-bar opening. The first 15 bars of this opening were transposed and reused in the published version of O cara memoria, Op. 17 (1860). Mm. 15-30 of the opening are a fugato on the coming cello theme. In the quintet version, mm. 3-30 were pasted over with a newspaper and m. 4 was rewritten to resemble m. 14 only in the tonic key. The piano introduction was rewritten to include only four bars. The cello part does not contain the tutti section in any form.
The first cello melody is based on Ferdinand Fürchtegott Huber’s “Ach! wie churze-n-üsi Tage!” found in Sammlung von Schweizer-Kühreihen und Volksliedern. Servais also used this melody in his Morceau de Salon No. 3, Op. posth.
The next section is a theme and a set of five variations. The theme and first two variations were included in the published version of Souvenir de Bade, Op. 20 (1863). The rest of the variations are not numbered. The third variation has a gypsy flair, accompanied almost exclusively by tremolo. The fourth variation does not seem to be related to the theme. It was published as the third variation in O cara memoria, Op. 17. The final variation is a polonaise. Near the end of the work, Servais quotes Sehnsuchtswalzer by Schubert.
Fantaisie sur des Airs Scandinaves was published posthumously in 1887 by Schott in Brussels. This work is largely in the key of G. The ominous introduction foreshadows the first theme to be varied, the Danish National Anthem Der er et yndigt land composed in 1835 by Hans Ernst Krøyer (1798–1879). The presentation of the theme is elegant and simple. The theme is followed by two variations. The slow section that follows is a cavatina “De klare Bölger rulled” from Act I of the singspiel Sovedrikken by Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse (1774–1842). The final section is based on “Tanzlied aus Dalekarlien” (Komm, du lilla flicka). The “Tanzlied aus Dalekarlien” is also used by Alfredo Piatti in his La Suédoise: caprice sur deux airs nationaux pour le violoncelle avec accompagnement de piano (published in 1849).
Our edition is based on two sources: the autograph of the introduction housed at the Stanford University Newberry collection and the posthumous publication by Schott.
Servais had a close relationship with Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, and his compositions reflect this. He first went to Russia in 1839–40. According to Peter François, this is when Servais composed and performed Fantaisie sur deux Airs Russes for the first time. This Fantaisie is based on the songs Соловей (The Nightingale, 1827) by Aleksandr Alyabyev (1787–1851) and Красный сарафан (The Red Sarafan, 1838) by Aleksandr Varlamov (1801–48). Servais dedicated this Fantaisie to Count Mikhail Vielgorsky (1788–1856), a Russian official, composer, and patron of the arts. Mikhail’s brother Matvey, an amateur cellist, was the dedicatee of Servais’s Morceau de Concert, Op. 14, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata No. 2.
Fantaisie sur La Folle is an early work holding close kinship to Fantaisie brillante: intitulée concertino, an early version of Souvenir de la Suisse. The romance La Folle by Albert Grisar (1808–1869) was first published in late 1834; many variations on the song followed in 1835 and 1836. It is likely that Servais composed his variation set at this time as well.
The Fantaisie begins with a short tutti section. The transition between the tutti and the solo theme is a simple statement of the head motive. This head is not used in the theme or the variations. The theme begins at “ah! oui je me souviens.” Three numbered variations follow the theme. Every variation is followed by tutti sections. The song-like fourth variation could stand in for a slow movement of a concerto. The finale is in three parts: a transition, the fifth variation (a march) and the coda. The coda is almost identical to the Fantaisie brillante.
Our edition is based on the manuscript cello solo part in the hand of Ulysse Claes (MS 45.106 (5)) housed at the Brussels Conservatory Library. The piano part is not extant. The piano part and orchestration for string quintet were reconstructed, occasionally bringing in material from Fantaisie brillante. The sources were graciously provided by the Servais Society. This is the first edition of Fantaisie sur La Folle.
Fantaisie pour Violoncelle was likely composed for his young student Henri Possoz (1827–97). The first known performance by Possoz of the Fantaisie happened on 4 September 1837. This work is arguably the easiest work Servais composed, around the level of Suzuki Cello Method Books 4 and 5.
While the themes of the Fantaisie are not identified by Servais, the work is based on Auber’s opera La Muette de Portici. The majority of the Fantaisie comes from the opening sequence from Act I. The opening tutti uses the material of the Act I introduction. The cello entrance is based on Elvire’s aria “A celui que j’aimais” from Act I. The theme and one variation come from the following part of the aria, “O moment enchanteur.” The slow section is based on Masaniello’s Cavatine from Act IV, “Du pauvre seul ami fidèle.” The finale brings the music back to Act I, the Air de Ballet.
Grande Fantaisie polonaise sur des Airs du Ballet La Noce de Cracovie was known by different names during the life of Servais, among them Fantaisie slave and Wesele w Ojcowie: Grand-Caprice. When it was published in November 1861, the work had already been performed by Servais with Samuel de Lange on 1 February 1859 in Sala Ratuszowa in Warsaw. The earliest known performance of Fantaisie polonaise happened on 29 April 1842 and was reviewed positively by the press, according to Servais specialist Peter François. The performances in 1842 and later in Servais’s life might have been different from the published version, as we know that Servais typically revised his works. Servais performed Fantaisie polonaise many times from 1842 until the year of his death.
The Fantaisie was dedicated to Stanislas (Stanisław) Jasiński (ca. 1823–1879), a notary whom Servais met in Cracow. He was also the dedicatee of Il trovatore de Verdi grand duo piano et violoncelle by Servais and Jacques Gregoir, and Maurice Dietrich's Valse Brillante.
The ballet upon which the Fantaisie is based, Wesele w Ojcowie, was compiled by Karol Kurpiński (1785–1857) and Józef Damse (1789–1852) in 1823. The ballet freely used popular music of the time. It must be noted that the German cellist-composer Bernhard Romberg composed his Capriccio sur des Airs et Danses polonaises, Op. 47 (ca. 1824, published in 1829) where he used four of the five melodies that Servais used in his Fantaisie.
Servais's Fantaisie opens with a tutti followed by a solo section based on "Zosiu ach już cię traciemy" by Josef Antonín Štěpán (1726–1797). The second part is a mazurka with a lengthy, bravura octave passage in the middle section. The third part is based on "Już śpiewasz, skowroneczku." The finale is based on "Nie uważaj miła Zosiu" by Štěpán as well. It is likely that the source of Servais's themes was ultimately Romberg's Capriccio, however. While each theme is thoroughly developed by Servais, this work does not contain any variations. The themes are stated in four large sections.
Fantaisie polonaise is unique in that the soloist tunes the C string down a semitone to B, not a common occurrence at the time. The first edition is printed in concert pitch throughout, making it difficult to gauge the fingering to be used on the lowest string. Our edition prints the concert pitch in the score; however, we use scordatura pitch in the solo part, making it more intuitive to play. Sections to be played on the lowest string are marked with a numeral "IV."
Grande Fantaisie sur des motifs de l'Opéra le Barbier de Séville de Rossini, Op. 6 (Urtext Edition, Piano Version)
Grande Fantaisie sur des motifs de l'Opéra le Barbier de Séville de Rossini, Op. 6 (Urtext Edition, Quintet Version)
François Servais (1807-66), a Belgian cello virtuoso and composer, was one of the more imaginative fantasia composers. One of the most interesting of Servais's fantasias is the Grande Fantaisie sur des motifs de l'Opéra le Barbier de Séville de Rossini, Op. 6. The Grande Fantaisie is in 4 parts, resembling a mini sonata. Our new edition of this work is based on the first edition, originally published by Schott in 1848, graciously provided by the Servais Society, faithfully combined into a beautiful, newly engraved, Urtext edition. The holograph manuscript from 1843 was also consulted. However, the 1843 version of the Grande Fantaisie is much too different from the final version to consider as a source. You may read more about the details in the fantasia at this link: https://yuriyleonovich.com/home/blog/critical-notes-series-servais-s-barber-of-seville-fantasie
Morceau de Concert, Op. 14 began as Cello Concerto No. 2, as is inscribed to Count Mathieu Wielhorsky (1794–1866). Wielhorsky (Matvey Vielgorsky), a cellist and composer, came from Polish nobility. He was the dedicatee of several notable works including Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata No. 2 and Schumann’s Piano Quartet, among others. Morceau de Concert is less technically rigorous and much more melodic than its sibling concertos.
Fantaisie et Variations based on “O cara memoria” by Michele Carafa (Caraffa) (1787–1872) was first published in February 1860 and dedicated to Baron Arthur O’Sullivan de Grass (1838–1865). “O cara memoria” comes from Carafa’s opera Adele di Lusignano (or Adelaide). Other themes may have been used, however, since the complete opera score is not extant currently, it is not possible to confirm this hypothesis.
Fantaisie et Variations begins with a dramatic orchestra introduction followed by a series of variations. A version of the theme is stated in the recitative (m. 17), followed by another iteration by the orchestra (m. 36). The official “Tema” is stated at measure 66. The theme is followed by variations marked 1, 2, and 3. The fourth variation, slow barcarolle, is not marked. This is followed by the restatement of the theme and a finale.
Schott reissued a version of Fantaisie et Variations edited by Ernest de Munck (1840–1915). This edition, ca. 1895, has a special plate number “15810 de M.” This re-engraved version moved Var. 2 to the position of the finale and removed the thematic material of the finale altogether. In November 1862, Schott also published a flute version of this piece by Jules Deneux.
Quatre Morceaux de Salon is a set of pieces for cello and piano. These works are arguably the composer’s shortest. It is difficult to date these works, as the set was published posthumously. However, comparing the style and musical language to the 1830s manuscripts and published works, it is, perhaps, better to place these works in the 1860s.
In the overall style, these pieces are best classified as pastiches. Whether intentional or not, Servais imitates the language of other composers while keeping his own style of cello writing. Here are the proposed composers whose music Servais is evoking: Schumann (1), Schubert and/or Rossini (2), Rossini (4). No. 3 is based on Ferdinand Fürchtegott Huber’s “Ach! wie churze-n-üsi Tage!” found in Sammlung von Schweizer-Kühreihen und Volksliedern. Servais also used this melody in his Fantaisie La Romantique.
To date, only the No. 2 has been recorded simply as “Piece” by Anner Bijlsma and Gérard van Blerk in 1975, released by Dutch Record Company (OM 555 027). The No. 3 was published by Harcourt, Brace and Co., New York in 1935 in a collection Pieces for violoncello: classic, romantic, modern edited by Albert E. Wier.
Souvenir d’Anvers was composed in the 1830s. The string quintet source also calls this work a Fantaisie. The first known performance of Souvenir d’Anvers happened on 3 December 1837 in Antwerp during a concert in the Salle du Musée (the present-day Académie des Beaux-Arts), in the rue de Vénus. Servais frequently visited Antwerp to play concerts and see friends. This likely inspired the composer to dedicate the work to the city.
Souvenir d’Anvers has existed in versions for cello with piano, string quintet, and orchestra accompaniments, however, the orchestra version is not extant. When the string quintet version is performed, the wind cues are to be played instead of the main line. This work is unique among the composer’s souvenirs and fantasias because it does not contain a variation set. Instead, Souvenir d’Anvers is best categorized as an adagio and allegro. Other representative works in the genre from the era include Carl Maria von Weber’s Andante e rondo ongarese, Op. 35, Felix Mendelssohn’s Capriccio brillant, Op. 22, and Robert Schumann’s Konzertstück, Op. 92.
Souvenir d’Anvers begins with a unison in F minor, based on the Hungarian minor scale. The soloist enters with a nostalgic melody in F minor. The only cadenza of length connects the adagio with the allegro section. The allegro section is a sonata-rondo. While Servais does not give the rondo a title, the feel of a “rondo alla Cosacca” (Ukrainian Cossack style) comes to mind with its rhythms and melodies. The rondo theme is in C major. The second theme is presented in G major in the exposition and in A-flat major in the recapitulation. This theme is later reused in the Rondo of Concerto Militaire, Op. 18 with slight adjustments and a different accompaniment. The figuration from mm. 351-399 is also used in the finales of the Op. 5 Concerto and the Grand Duo (co-composed with Henry Vieuxtemps). The coda begins with an identical figuration to variations in Fantaisie La Romantique (var. 4) and O cara memoria, Op. 17 (var. 3).
Souvenir d’Anvers is also unique among other works by Servais in that it does not use passages of octaves and thirds.
Our edition is based on the autographs of cello solo and piano parts (MS 45.106 (3)) as well as the string quintet version (MS 45.109) in the hand of Ulysse Claes. Three pages of the piano part have been rejected and do not fit the cello part. All sources are housed at the Brussels Conservatory Library.
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 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."
Souvenir de Spa was first penned under the title “Fantaisie pour Violoncelle,” dedicated to the Duchess of Looz. The published title page contains the new title of Souvenir de Spa with a dedication being ex-panded to read “composée et dédiée à madame la Duchesse de Looz Corsvarem [sp.].” Looz-Corswarem is a Belgian ducal family belonging to the Belgian and as reigning Princes of the Principality of Rheina-Wolbeck, they also belonged to the German nobility. Souvenir de Spa, like many other fantasies by Servais, is constructed in variation form. The theme seems to be Servais’s own but has thematic and rhythmic similarities to Beethoven’s Septet, Op. 20, opening movement. The work begins with an introduction in A minor, followed by a cadenza and an accompanied recitative. The A-major theme is a rather lengthy 48 bars. Since the theme is on the longer side, Servais opts for a four-variation model. The first two variations are harmonically similar to the theme. The third variation is slow, lyrical, and chromatic, almost Wagnerian in places. The final variation is rhythmically identical to the finale from the Grande Fantaisie sur des motifs de l'Opéra le Barbier de Séville de Rossini, which is based on "La testa vi gira."
Souvenir de Spa was so popular that it was quoted in works by Johann Strauss Sr. and Sydney Smith.
Souvenir de la Suisse was before 1830 with the title Fantaisie brillante: intitulée concertino. The first known performance happened on 8 January 1830. The work is based on a Ranz des Vaches, likely of Servais’s own composition. The last page of the manuscript cello part is signed “vaque mon ami Poumback [sic].” Jan Poumbak was Servais’s whimsical pseudonym.
The theme in the manuscript is very simple and in 3/4 time. Servais reworked and elaborated on the theme for the published version. The rhythms used in the reworked theme are almost identical to the Alp song " Und a Freud is auf'n Land," which Servais used in his Fantaisie, Op. 1. Besides the elaborate theme, the only other major difference is the first variation. Everything else is intact, with minor changes. The Fantaisie brillante was dedicated to the Queen Louise-Marie of Belgium, who predeceased the publication by several months.
A great specimen of a collaboration of the time comes in the form of the Grand Duo for violin and cello by François Servais (1807–66) and Henry Vieuxtemps (1820-81), both Belgian virtuosos. The Grand Duo is based on Meyerbeer’s opera Les Huguenots and is dedicated to Prince Nikolai Borisovich Yusupov [grandson] (1827–91), Marshal of the Russian Imperial Court as well as a violinist and composer. Notably, Yusupov transcribed Servais’s Souvenir de Spa and Fantaisie sur deux Airs Russes for violin.
Like many of the fantasies by Servais, this duo is in four parts consisting of an introduction, a set of variations, a slow section, and a finale. The introduction comes from the Overture based on the popular Lutharn chant “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.” The theme (and variations) come from Raoul's Romance "Plus blanche que la blanche hermine" from Act I, Scene 2. The slow, third section comes from the Duo of Raoul and Marguerite "Beauté divine, enchanteresse" Act II, Scene 10, and the Finale from Act I, Scene 1d Orgie "Bonheur de la table."
Servais transcribed Chopin's Mazurkas Op. 6 No. 1 and Op. 7 No. 3. Other than changing the keys, the text closely follows Chopin's first edition. Servais's version of these works was later expanded upon by Leopold Grützmacher in his set of 10 Mazurkas by Chopin.
François Servais (1807–66), a Belgian cello virtuoso and composer, was one of the first cellists to transcribe the E-flat-major Nocturne, a work that is almost synonymous with the name “Chopin.” Servais transcribed this Nocturne for cello and piano in D major, a key better suited for the cello. This transcription closely follows Chopin’s original text, more so than later transcriptions by Pablo Sarasate and David Popper. In three places, Servais gives the cellist an “easy” and a “difficult” option. It is the “difficult” reading that is closest to Chopin’s original. From 1863 to 1938, Schott printed over 7,000 copies of Servais’s transcription for cello and piano. In the 1910s, this transcription was recorded by Anton Hekking, Joseph Hollman, George Rogovoy, and Thomas Weist-Hill.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908), a Russian composer and brilliant orchestrator, must have enjoyed Servais’s transcription enough to orchestrate it for solo cello, two flutes, two clarinets, and strings. Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestration is straightforward, based on Servais’s piano part. The manuscript of the orchestration is located at the National Library of Russia.
Mikhail Glinka (1804–57) is often called the father of Russian music for his influential work in opera and Russian romance. One of his most popular romances is Сомнение (Doubt). Glinka made several versions of this romance with different instrumentation. The Belgian cellist and composer François Servais (1807–66) transcribed Сомнение for cello and piano as well as cello and string quintet.
According to Peter François, a leading researcher on Servais's life, Glinka and Servais met in 1854 in Brussels. In 1866, the final year of Servais's life, he played the quintet version of the romance. According to Lev Ginsburg in his History of the Violoncello, quoting Alexander Serov, Servais had already performed Сомнение in 1857. Servais's repertoire included other romances by Glinka as well.
The transcription of Сомнение for cello and piano is in B-flat minor. The original key of the romance is D minor. While the romance is in three strophic stanzas, the transcription only presents one complete stanza in the beginning. After the second stanza, Servais inserts an interpolation, "Majeur," which is more virtuosic. Here he uses figurations that are also found in Concerto Militaire. The transcription then finishes with another stanza in B-flat minor.
Our edition is based on the manuscript housed at the National Library of Russia (Fond No. 891, item 264) in St. Petersburg. The source was graciously provided by the National Library of Russia.