– François Servais –
The wonder of a travelling cellist
François Servais was born in Halle on 6 June 1807 to shoemaker Jean-Baptiste Servais and housewife Joséphine Bande. From an early age, he showed exceptional musical talent. He was a member of the church orchestra and was discovered by the Marquis Jules de La Croix de Chevrières de Sayve, who introduced him to Corneille Vander Plancken, first violinist in the orchestra of the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. Thanks to him and the French cellist Nicolas Platel, he had the opportunity to develop his particular gift.
He became conductor of the Koninklijke Harmonie Sinte-Cecilia Halle and taught at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles, but wanted to develop his talent beyond the country’s borders.
In 1833, he went to Paris for the first time, which immediately marked the beginning of his international career as a cellist. He then travelled to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. In 1839, he undertook a month-long concert tour of Russia, followed by a successful tour of Vienna. He played alongside famous composers such as Felix Mendelssohn and Ferdinand David, and met the German composer Robert Schumann. On one of his trips to Russia, he met the charming Sophie Feygin, who was later to become his wife.
She acted as impresario for numerous musical performances and negotiated the rights to purchase concerts. Some of these trips were intended to finance the family’s luxury lifestyle.
On his second trip to Russia, he played for the princely Youssoupov family. It is said that Princess Tatiana Vasilievna Youssoupov, as a patron of the arts, played an important role in Servais’s purchase of the famous 1701 Stradivarius cello at auction.
In 1847, the Servais-Feygin family had an imposing villa built in Halle, in which Servais incorporated the many influences of his travels. From then on, the Villa Servais became his favourite residence and a meeting place for local and international musicians and artists. Take a seat in the villa’s cosy tea room and travel through Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Turkey, Russia, France and Austria.