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Servais Urtext Project – A Conversation with Dr. Yuriy Leonovich

Find out about the beautiful new Urtext editions of the works of Servais 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.
Servais Urtext Editions by Yuriy Leonovich
In the cello world, Dr. Yuriy Leonovich stands out not just for his virtuosity, but also for his passion for unearthing interesting cello repertoire from the past and making it accessible to cellists through modern editions.
Dr. Leonovich, a cellist, composer, music editor, and cello professor, has written a number of wonderful articles about cello editions for the Cello Museum. Recently, I was fortunate to catch up with him through the interview that follows to learn about his remarkable collaboration with the Servais Society, a journey that is making the works of the cello virtuoso François Servais (6 June 1807 – 26 November 1866) accessible through beautiful Urtext editions.
Keep reading to find out how you can enter for a chance to win a PDF copy of one of Dr. Leonivich’s Servais editions!
The following interview transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Francois Servais

François Servais (6 June 1807 – 26 November 1866)

The Servais Urtext Project

Cello Museum (CM)

Please tell us about your remarkable collaboration with the Servais Society.

Dr. Yuriy Leonovich (YL)

I’ve wanted to work on an Urtext project since grad school. At the time, I thought it would be editions of Cassadó’s music because I was planning to write my dissertation on his concertos. Working with the Cassadó archive is a virtual impossibility for the foreseeable future.
The opportunity arose to work with the Servais Society in 2021. Before this collaboration, I only knew three works by Servais: the 6 Caprices, the Fantasia on 2 Russian Songs, and the Barber of Seville Fantasia. I knew that many other works existed, but I never came in contact with them because my main focus has been 20th and 21st-century works for almost 20 years.

Inspired by a Student


What was the spark that launched this project, and how did the collaboration with the Servais Society come about?


I was teaching one of my most advanced students the Servais Caprices. I wanted to make a good edition of the set as a high school graduation gift. Someone asked about Servais Urtext in the Facebook group Internet Cello Society. I thought, why don’t I do a few more editions? I contacted Peter François at the Servais Society, and the rest is history.

The Expanding Series


How many editions have you published in the series, and how many more will you release soon? How many do you plan for the complete series?


The original plan was to do around 20 editions, as outlined by the Servais Society. I have 35 editions and three more “on the hot plate.”

A total [for the whole series]? I am not sure. It depends on the direction of my research and the needs of the Servais Society. The only published opuses we haven’t talked about updating are 1, 7, 8, 19, and 21.

[CM Note: Since the interview, we heard from Dr. Leonovich that although he initially said he wasn’t going to make editions of Opp. 19 and 21—he did. He said, “It’s a tribute to Ukraine and Poland.” You can learn more about Opus 21, Souvenir de Czernowitz, here. Look for a full article on his site about this piece in the future.]

A Publication Date Doesn’t Always Correspond with a Composition Date


What have you learned about Servais in doing this project?


The most important thing I’ve learned about Servais as a composer is that he composed the majority of his melodic inventory between 1830 and 1842.

Many of his published (non-collaboration) works contain themes and motives from the early manuscripts housed at the Brussels Conservatory. For example, Souvenir de la Suisse was published in 1851 but it already existed in 1830 under the title Fantaisie brilliante. Souvenir de Bade, one of my favorite works by Servais, was published in 1863, but it already existed in 1834 as Fantaisie La Romantique.
It’s important to note that a publication date doesn’t always correspond with a composition date. In Servais’ case, composition sometimes predates publication by almost 30 years.

A Fondness for Switzerland and Revision



What other discoveries have you made along the way?


The most interesting thing I discovered relates to Servais’ love for Switzerland. He had never toured Switzerland, but two popular [Swiss] melodies can be found in his works. Ferdinand Fürchtegott Huber’s “Ach! wie churze-n-üsi Tage!” makes an appearance in the introduction of Fantaisie La Romantique, Morceau de Salon No. 3 (published posthumously), and a piano sketch in C minor. The song “Und a Freud is auf’n Land” can be found in his Fantaisie, Op. 1, and the published version of Souvenir de la Suisse.
Servais always heavily revised his works before publication. Sometimes a finale of one variation set would appear in an unrelated piece upon publication. The finale of the Fantaisie élégante (early version of Souvenir de St Pétersbourg, Op.15) appears in the published version of Carnaval de Venise, Op.9. The finale of Souvenir de Spa uses the identical rhythm of “La testa vi gira” from the Barber of Seville Fantasia. Fantaisie brilliante (early version of Souvenir de la Suisse) shares a lengthy coda with Fantaisie sur La Folle, which I recently reconstructed and published.

The Joy of Collaboration


What do you enjoy most about working on this project?


I really enjoy the interaction with the president of the Servais Society, Peter François. He has been researching Servais for around 20 years. He always answers my questions very patiently. I am definitely a newcomer.

An Extensive Catalog of Cello Music


What other Urtext Series have you published?


I have almost 200 scholarly editions in my catalog. I think some highlights are the Vivaldi and Platti concertos and works by Saint-Saens and Costanzi.

Other Projects of Note


What are your favorite new editions that you’ve created?


My favorite new editions are Servais’ La Romantique and La Folle. The latter I reconstructed with piano and with string quintet accompaniments.

Where to Purchase the Servais Urtext 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 fund his further research.

How to Follow and Support Yuriy Leonovich

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!

Servais Muette Edition Preview
As the back-to-school season gets into full swing, Dr. Leonovich had a special treat in store for one lucky reader. He gave away one PDF copy of Servais’s Fantaisie sur La Muette to the winner of our random prize drawing on Monday, 16 October 2023. The winner also gets a Cello Museum T-shirt.
He chose this piece for its accessibility, even to cellists in the early stages of their cello journeys. As Servais likely wrote it for his young student, Henri Possoz (1827–97), this is a piece that is playable by cellists at about the level of the Suzuki Cello Method Books 4 and 5.
This giveaway is now closed for entries. Stay tuned for another Giveaway in late October.

A Chance to Hear a Live Performance

For anyone in the Greenville, SC (USA) area, you can hear Dr. Leonovich play a Servais tribute later this year. Here is the program:

  • Glinka/Servais – Doubt
  • Servais – Fantaisie sur La Folle (Dr. Leonovich’s reconstruction of the accompaniment)
  • Servais – Morceaux de Salon Nos. 1 and 4
  • Servais – Fantaisie La Romantique

Here are the details:

  • 6 PM
  • 12 December 2023
  • Fellowship Bible Church, Greenville, SC

This is a rare opportunity to hear this music, the performance of which likely includes one or more world premieres and all US premieres. In addition, the last time La Romantique was performed was in 1842, and the Glinka arrangement hasn’t been performed since the 1850s.

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