Period-instrument performances of Beethoven's violin sonatas aren't too common; they pose thorny problems of balance even beyond the question of whether Beethoven wouldn't have preferred modern instruments if he could have had them. But this superbly musical set by violinist Midori Seiler, playing an Italian Baroque violin of unknown manufacture, and fortepianist Jos van Immerseel, on a copy of an entirely appropriate Viennese Walter piano, may well redefine the standard for these works.
In the course of the 1996-97 season, Anima Eterna played and recorded Schubert's complete symphonies in the particularly innovative interpretation of their conductor, Jos van Immerseel. This interpretation, based on the study of Schubert's manuscripts and on the instruments used at the time of their first performance, allows us to discover sound colours that combine freshness and profundity.
Jos van Immerseel and Claire Chevallier have enjoyed a close collaboration for many years now. Like Jos van Immerseel, Claire Chevallier loves period pianos; like him, she is a researcher and possesses her own collection of keyboard instruments.
Authentic and authoritative, these 1985 recordings of Mozart and Beethoven's quintets for piano and winds have almost everything going for them. Performing on a pianoforte modeled on a 1790 Viennese instrument, Jos van Immerseel is an adroit player, while the quartet drawn from the period instrument wind band Octophoros Paul Dombrecht on oboe, Elmar Schmid on clarinet, Piet Dombrecht on horn, and Danny Bond on bassoon are likewise all skillful instrumentalists.
George Gershwin composed his Rhapsody in Blue in 1924. In the same year, he launched his collaboration with his brother Ira, which produced countless songs. He never achieved his ambition of studying with Maurice Ravel, but was always enthralled by the symphonic poem and the concerto. His masterpieces, such as An American in Paris and the opera Porgy and Bess, greatly enriched the American musical heritage. Jos van Immerseel has always been fascinated by Gershwin, but it was the appearance of a new edition of the scores that prompted the pianist and conductor to record this extensive homage. Thanks to the very latest research undertaken by the University of Michigan, the Library of Congress and the Gershwin Estate, he and his companions in Anima Eterna have got closer than ever before to the composer’s intentions, making use of the appropriate instruments.
I wouldn’t have thought the world was anxiously waiting for a historically informed performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade . Written in 1888 and a masterpiece of orchestration, it would seem that this was one work that really cries out for the full resources of a modern symphony orchestra. So I was surprised when I saw a listing for this new recording with the Bruges-based period-instrument ensemble, Anima Eterna. Despite all the heat generated in some quarters, I remain fairly neutral regarding H.I.P., seeing it neither as the salvation of music from 20th-century excesses nor as the death of music through formalism. At their best, H.I.P. performances throw a different light on the overly familiar.
These performances of the Beethoven symphonies and overtures seek to perform these masterpieces employing the same instrumentation, acoustics and timing that Beethoven heard (when he could) and used. Thus we are placed in hearing this music the way its composer wanted us to hear it.
In fact, until these new performances by Midori Seiler and Jos van Immerseel, only the spirited, often schmaltzy renderings of K. 205 and K. 301-304 performed by Erich Höbarth and Patrick Cohen (Astrée) have ranked with the finest modern-instrument accounts.
As with most of Haydn’s masses, the Missa Cellensis is more well known by its alias,“Cäcilienmesse” (Cecilia Mass), rather than by its original name. Joseph Haydn began work on the mass in 1766, when he assumed the position as Music Director for the princely Court of Esterházy. With its unusually large orchestra and a duration of almost one hour, this composition is the longest and most extensive of Haydn’s masses. Haydn followed the traditional structure by setting the parts of the Ordinary in individual movements, in which the text is interpreted through the use of variety and contrast in scoring and compositional technique. For quite some time now, Jos van Immerseel and his Ensemble Anima Eterna have enjoyed an outstanding reputation for presenting their unique and special type of historical performance practice: For the present recording they employed Vienna wind instruments and the string instruments are modeled on instruments from the Viennese classical period.