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New Discoveries: An Update from Dr. Yuriy Leonovich

Find out about the latest discoveries and beautiful new editions by Dr. Yuriy Leonovich. Also, enter for a chance to win a digital copy of one of the new editions and a Cello Museum T-shirt.

Joseph Servais

Late last year, we heard from Dr. Yuriy Leonovich, a cellist who stands out for his virtuosity as well as his passion for unearthing interesting cello repertoire from the past and making it accessible to cellists through modern editions. He is working on many projects, including a significant examination of the works of cello prodigy François Servais (6 June 1807–26 November 1866).

He recently unearthed several more Servais manuscripts—many of them by François’s youngest son, Joseph.

Keep reading this interview with Dr. Leonovich to learn about this newly discovered trove of manuscripts, another musical hoax, a list of cellist-composers, and how to enter our January 2024 drawing for a chance to win a PDF copy of one of his Servais editions and a Cello Museum T-shirt.

The following interview transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Servais Project Update: Uncovering the Works of Joseph Servais

Dr. Brenda Neece (BN)

Servais is a name familiar to cellists, but not everyone knows about Joseph Servais. Please give us some background information about him before telling us about your discovery.

Dr. Yuriy Leonivich (YL)

According to the Servais Society,

In 1866 Joseph Servais obtained the First Price for cello in the Conservatory, in his father’s class. In the same year already, he accompanied François Servais an his tour to Russia. Scarcely one year later he performed before the king of Portugal. Later on performances in France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands followed.

In 1868-1870 he was cello solo in the Musikkapell of the grand duke of Weimar. In 1872 he became at his turn cello teacher in the Brussels Conservatory. A short time later he founded the concerts of Chamber music in the Cercle Artistique in Brussels, together with the pianist Louis Brassin and the violinist Henry Vieuxtemps. Henry Vieuxtemps dedicated his two cello concertos to Joseph Servais, who gave them their premiere.

Finding Joseph Servais’s Manuscripts

BN

How did you discover the manuscripts of Joseph Servais?

YL

The president of the Servais Society, Peter François, already knew about the existence of the manuscripts in a private collection. As we were looking for any works we’d missed by François Servais, Mr. François decided that it would be best to catalog that collection so we could reference it at a later date.

We’ve already published Schubert’s “Moment Musical” No. 3 from that collection arranged by François Servais. I’ve also made a connection between “Morceau de Salon” No. 4 (published posthumously) and the A-minor Cello Concerto (published posthumously).

Discovering a Cello Concerto by Joseph Servais

Discovering a Cello Concerto

BN

What was your initial reaction upon discovering the concerto and short pieces by Joseph Servais? What makes this discovery significant in the world of classical music and cello repertoire?

YL

The discovery was exciting at first. There was a bit of disappointment because some works were incomplete.

To date, the string quartet by Joseph Servais has been published as well as a handful of opera fantasies in collaboration with Joseph Gregoir. The concerto and the short pieces, like the romances, would be great additions to our repertoire. The romances are little gems; one of them is orchestrated for chamber orchestra. Cellists will now have another Belgian cellist-composer they can explore alongside Jules de Swert and Adolphe Fischer (dedicatee of Lalo’s Cello Concerto).

BN

Please tell us about the challenges and rewards of cataloging and interpreting these newly found manuscripts.

YL

One of the biggest challenges in cataloging was piecing together the concerto and figuring out its different versions. There are three thematically unrelated versions of the finale. There could be a fair copy of the manuscript that looks final, and then it just cuts off abruptly after ten or even 20 pages. I think I’ve found one complete version of the concerto. I will need to check it against the full score to see if this version matches the score. The score has not been fully digitized for my research yet.

Another thing I found is that, among 1000+ pages of manuscripts, there are relatively few complete pieces. There was a beautiful sicilienne by François Servais that was missing about four pages from the middle section. Of course, I can reconstruct it, but I would prefer to have the original.

BN

How much of this music are you editing? When and where can cellists find your editions?

YL

Currently, I am not editing any of the Joseph Servais collection. I’ve published the Schubert arrangement, which I also performed in December 2023, but that’s about it for now.

Other Servais Urtext Project Updates

Francois Servais

François Servais (6 June 1807 – 26 November 1866)

BN

What other updates on your Servais research and editions work would you like to share with us?

YL

[François Servais’s] “Souvenir de Czernowitz” is published. I am waiting for the autograph of “Souvenir de St. Petersburg,” which I will publish together with its predecessor, “Fantaisie Elegante.” [Read more about the “Souvenir de Czernowitz” here.]

Unmasking Another Cello Hoax – La Romanesca

Unmasking another cello hoax

BN

As a follow-on to your previous article, “That’s All, Hoax!” you mentioned finding another cello hoax titled La Romanesca. Please share more about this discovery and the hoax details.

YL

The transcription of La Romanesca by the Belgian cellist-composer François Servais (1807–1866) is mainly based on the version made by the violinist Pierre Baillot (1771–1842), giving the violin part to the cello and the guitar part to the piano (string quintet).

Servais’s La Romanesca has a subtitle “fameux Air de Danse de la fin du XVIme Siècle arrangé pour le Violoncelle avec accompagnement de 2 Violons, Alto, Violoncelle et Contrebasse avec sourdines ou Piano tel qu’il a été exécuté par François Servais dans ses Concerts à Vienne.” However, it is more than likely that La Romanesca is a forgery made by François-Joseph Fétis (1784–1871), which was popularized in the 1830s by Baillot. After being published by the Viennese firm E. Mollo & A.O. Witzendorf in the summer of 1842, the Servais transcription was published and reprinted by several publishers. La Romanesca is a post-Rameau gavotte and does not display a sixteenth-century style. The section in B Major seems to be by Servais.

BN

What impact do such hoaxes have on the history and study of classical music?

YL

One thing I find disappointing is that most people buy into the hoax. Sure, it’s beautiful music, but the hoax itself is a marketing ploy. Just put your own name on it!

Because of the popularity of La Romanesca, the cello transcription likely inspired David Popper’s famous D-major Gavotte and Gaspar Cassadó’s Pastorale, which he tried to pass off as François Couperin’s work.

List of Cellist-Composers for Listening

List of Cellist Composers graphic - fountain pen, written list, ink, and headphones

BN

You mentioned that you gave one of your students a list of cellist composers to explore. How do you think studying these composers can benefit a developing cellist?

YL

Studying music written by cellists is going directly to the source. The reason your favorite cello sonatas and concertos are well-written is that the composers of these works consulted professional cellists and took their advice. Works written by cellist-composers are idiomatic for the instrument, even when they are difficult.

Before you give your students Brahms E-minor, I think you owe it to them to teach them several Breval sonatas of various difficulties, Romberg sonatas, and maybe a Costanzi sonata or two. Goltermann 4 is a popular “student” concerto, but students can grow a little with concertos by (real) Boccherini, Romberg, Davydov, and Popper before you hand them Saint-Saens 1 or Haydn C.

There is so much pressure for students to compete in high school that teachers don’t realize the holes that they are leaving by the time the students graduate.

Bernhard Romberg

Bernhard Romberg

BN

What major cellist-composers do you expect your students to know?

YL

  1. Luigi Boccherini
  2. Jean-Baptiste Bréval
  3. Giovanni Battista Costanzi
  4. Karl Davydov
  5. Justus Johann Friedrich Dotzauer
  6. Wilhelm Fitzenhagen
  7. Domenico Gabrielli
  8. Georg Goltermann
  9. Anton Kraft
  10. Jean-Louis Duport
  11. Jean-Pierre Duport
  12. David Popper
  13. Bernhard Romberg
  14. François Servais
Luigi Boccherini

Luigi Boccherini

BN

Are there any underappreciated cellist composers you think more people should know?

YL

I think there is an overall underappreciation for cellist-composers. Breval should be explored more beyond the Suzuki Method. Dotzauer should be explored beyond his etudes, especially beyond the 113 heavily edited etudes. Studying Servais will make you realize where all the difficult riffs in standard concertos and sonatas come from.

BN

You are a cellist composer. Where can people find a list of your works and your sheet music? I could not find a complete list online, but I found these: IMSLP and Musicalics.

YL

I don’t have a published catalog of works, but here is a short list. In addition, this YouTube playlist is a good place to start.

Insights from Working with Manuscript Sources

“I love working with MS sources, [but] in the wrong hands, they are as dangerous as Google searches.” - Dr. Yuriy Leonovich

BN

I love this quote by you:

“I love working with MS sources, [but] in the wrong hands, they are as dangerous as Google searches.” – Dr. Yuriy Leonovich

What are some of the most common misconceptions or challenges you’ve faced when dealing with such primary materials?

YL

The issue I find is slogans like “the last word” or “composer’s intentions” on Urtext editions. These are created to help marketing and are often misleading consumers. As a composer, I can tell you that I constantly edit my pieces with every performance. Shostakovich published his Cello Sonata three times during his lifetime. We can hear him playing two distinct editions in the recordings he made. What is the “last word?”

The more I study primary sources, the more freedom I feel like I have. I used to collect recordings of Dvořák’s Concerto (before YouTube) just so I could judge them if they played “wrong notes.” I missed so many opportunities to learn from these great cellists. This kind of pseudo-research breeds ignorance.

In linguistics, arguments usually arise between prescriptivists and descriptivists. For example, a prescriptivist will say, “It’s not ‘aks’ but ‘ask’.” A descriptivist will say, “Since ‘aks’ is used by a large demographic, it’s a legitimate variant.” A historical linguist would say, “both ‘ask’ and ‘aks’ are historically accurate.” There are too many prescriptivists in our circles.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t seek out how to improve, but we could all learn more with more patience and understanding.

Yagling Research: A Deep Dive into a Soviet Composer’s Legacy

Victoria Yagling

Victoria Yagling

BN

Your work on Victoria Yagling’s music is an ongoing journey. What recent developments can you share about your research and editions, especially regarding the Suite for Cello and Strings?

YL

I’ve been researching Yagling’s music since 2019. The initial research led to me performing her Suite No. 1 for cello solo several times. I’ve continued researching her music since then. Her third cello sonata is especially beautiful, composed in memory of Prokofiev.

More recently, I’ve discovered her Suite for Cello and String Orchestra. The piece could be labeled as her first major work. She recorded it in 1983. In 2020, her publisher Fennica Gehrman published the first edition, from what I can gather. The Suite has been performed, with the Aria movement being recorded by Raphaela Gromes. By the way, Gromes quoted [my Cello Museum article headline], “Celebrating a Major Force in Soviet Music – Victoria Yagling” in The Strad.

I wanted to play the Suite with piano, so I connected with Fennica Gehrman to see if I could create a piano reduction if they didn’t already have one in the plans. They graciously allowed me to create the piano reduction which they plan to publish. There is no projected date.

Future Plans and Projects

BN

What exciting projects or collaborations are on your horizon?

YL

I am planning to play the world premiere of Nicholas Van Slyck’s* Cello Sonata No. 1 (1954) on 9 March in Greenville, SC. Van Slyck’s widow, Trudi Van Slyck, gave me the honor of premiering the work. The first edition will follow. The solo sonata is around 15 minutes long, in 3 movements. The first movement is called “Chaconne;” its Hindemithian theme is developed through continuous variations. The second movement is called Serenade. Its style is very much like Ligeti’s and Crumb’s solo sonatas, but all three sonatas were composed at the same time and doubtfully had any influence on each other. The finale is an energetic Rondo in 7/8.

World Premiere

The 9 March recital will also include works by Puccini, Fauré, and Herbert, all of whom have the 100th anniversary of their deaths. I will do repeat performances of Fantaisie La Romantique and Morceau de Salon No. 4 by Servais and will likely do an American premiere of Yagling’s Aria from the Suite for Cello and String Orchestra.

*Van Slyck was the founder of the New School of Music in Boston.



Dr. Leonovich’s New Publications

Where to Purchase Dr. Leonovich’s Editions

His editions are also available from Artistic Score Engraving and Ovation Press. Please note that Dr. Leonovich uses the funds from his editions to conduct further research.

How to Follow and Support Yuriy Leonovich

Dr. Yuriy Leonovich

Dr. Yuriy Leonovich. Photo courtesy Dr. Yuriy Leonovich.

Dr. Leonovich updates his Servais Urtext article frequently, and you can get the latest information about the project here.

Enter for a Chance to Win!

The giveaway of a Cello Museum T-shirt and a digital score of Dvořák’s “Gypsy Songs,” arranged for cello and piano, transcribed by Dr. Leonovich is now over.  Congratulations to Peter of Saarland, the winner of this giveaway!

Not a winner this time? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to hear about our latest giveaway.

Thanks to Dr. Leonovich for donating the digital score for this giveaway!

(The live recording above is of an earlier version of this transcription.)



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