François Servais played a Stradivarius cello, made in 1701 by Antonio Stradivari. He probably came into possession of the Stradivarius around 1840. After Servais’ death, his son Joseph got hold of the instrument.
In 1981, after much wandering, the instrument ended up in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington (right). The Servais cello is considered the best cello in the world. This is due, among other things, to the special size of the instrument. For instance, the length of a cello may vary from 72.3 to 78.7 cm. The Servais cello measures 78.7 cm. After 1701 Stradivarius gave preference to smaller standard measurements. This caused many an older cellos to be shortened or even to be reduced to firewood…
Now and again the Servais cello is being played by great cellists. The incomparable timbre of the instrument can be heard on a number of CD-recordings. In 1992, for instance, Anner Bijlsma played it for a recording of Bachs Six suites for cello. This recording is still available on Sony Classical – Vivarte (S2K 48047).
Some present-day cello makers use the Servais cello as a model, among others Jonathan Franke (www.proviolins.com), Frans Stas, Gerard Ivan Šamija (left – www.luthier.ca) and Paul Gentile (www.gentilecollection.com).