Servais: Duos for Cello & Violin

Friedemann Eichhorn / Alexander Hülshoff

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Servais: Duos for Cello & Violin Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Though his fame was less far-reaching and certainly less enduring than his namesake, Adrien François Servais was nonetheless known as the "Paganini of the cello." Judging by the immense technical difficulty of many of his works and numerous historical accounts, this moniker seems to be well-earned. By an extremely young age, Servais was on faculty at the Brussels Conservatory where the opportunity to meet and work closely with violinist/composers Hubert Léonard, Joseph Ghys, and Henry Vieuxtemps. They collaborated on several compositions together, six of which are heard here on this Naxos album. The overriding characteristic of each of these pieces is clearly a display of technical bravura, yet Servais and his collaborators managed to keep their works from being trite, innocuous trivialities. Rather, they produced works that are instantly captivating, nearly orchestral in their density of sound, highly entertaining, and -- yes -- technically astounding. Performing these little-heard gems are cellist Alexander Hülshoff and violinist Friedemann Eichhorn. Servais ensured that his works were at the very least a partnership of true equals, if not every-so-often favoring the cello. Hülshoff and Eichhorn brilliantly capture this notion with their impeccable sense of balance, pristine and polished intonation (even in extensive passages played entirely in unison), and crisp articulation. Their performance together is one that listeners will undoubtedly enjoy for both technical and musical merits.

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