Jos van Immerseel:
“Many composers, instrument builders and performers have inspired me throughout my career. Never endeavoring an all-encompassing list, I do strive to gradually build the string of my musical DNA in time to come…”
[musical examples mentioned refer to recordings available on Spotify]
Sinfonie nr.9 in C 'Die Grosse', D944
(performer: Anima Eterna Brugge)
(performers: Thomas Bauer & Jos van Immerseel)
Schubert is one of the composers who have been keeping me company for a long time now: one of those giants who keep surprising me, and seem to demand higher appraisal by the ever closer consideration of their works. Small wonder that Schubert is a noticeable presence in my own discography: Anima Eterna Brugge recorded his complete symphonies – of which I reluctantly chose only one for this playlist: ‘Die Grosse’ - , with Thomas Bauer – one of my dearest chamber music partners and friends – I played his Winterreise, and… in November 2015 a brand new Schubertiade-box containing 4 CD’s with vocal/instrumental chamber music in various settings will be issued by Zig-Zag Territoires / Outhere! We have just finalized the recording sessions in Anima’s home haven, Concertgebouw Brugge, and I am very much looking forward to putting the jigsaw puzzle of this major undertaking together.
Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria- Sinfonia
(performers : René Jacobs & Concerto Vocale )
Me and Monteverdi go way back: as a child, browsing through the collection of the Antwerp discotheque where I could indulge in my exploration of the classics, I simply devoured his music. Quite early on in my career, I had the opportunity to conduct his L’Orfeo in the Antwerp opera – that was a milestone for me. For this play list, I selected the Sinfonia to Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, by Concerto Vocale under the direction of another of my musical brothers in arms: René Jacobs, with whom I have spent many happy hours singing/playing highlights of the early and later aria- and Lieder-repertoire.
La Mer, trois esquisses symphoniques, L.109
(performer: Anima Eterna Brugge)
The Anima-recording of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, Images and La Mer (ZZT 313) is one of our most acclaimed CD’s: the meticulous search for suitable instruments, analysis of scores and editions, and the time invested in reading not only his writings on music but his personal correspondence as well, has really paid
off in terms of bringing the orchestra as close as possible to his interiorized sound world. Debussy was a perfectionist, strict and severe to others, but most of all to himself. By evoking his musical universe as precisely as possible, we’ve reached a transparency of sound, subtlety of rhythm and richness of color that – so I hope – serve the intricacy of his score well.
Concerto pour deux pianos et orchestre en ré mineur
(performers : Claire Chevallier, Jos van Immerseel & Anima Eterna Brugge )
This choice too combines a performer and a composer who have meant a lot to me throughout my career : Claire Chevallier is my regular chamber music partner in whatever repertoire requiring two keyboards, and one of the musicians with whom I share a ‘musical alphabet’: basics don’t need to be discussed with companions such as her; we usually prepare separately, dive into the music during joint rehearsal sessions and always manage to hit exactly the right note from the first moment onwards. As far as Poulenc is concerned: I think this man has been unrightfully served by music history, that hasn’t retained him as one of the mastodons of the modern repertoire. To me, he is one of the most striking figures of the 20th century: erudite yet spontaneous, and a brilliant performer too! To help further the awareness of his genius, Anima has recorded some of his works with Zig-Zag Territoires (ZZT 110403), of which I selected the Concerto pour deux pianos et orchestra for this list.
Carmina Burana - In trutina
(performer: Barbra Streisand)
One could call Carl Orff one of my childhood heroes. I was only twelve years old when I discovered his oeuvre, borrowing a recording at the Antwerp discotheque of Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna, in an arrangement for voice and two harpsichords by . . . Carl Orff – a man then only known to me because of his work as a music pedagogue. I was mesmerized: the music was fantastic! I got interested in Orff, and discovered more of his compositions: the opera Die Kluge and later Catulli Carmina – a work we performed with our school choir as well. My sympathy for this composer has never faded, and when the idea arose a few years ago to set up a new project with Anima Eterna Brugge and Collegium Vocale Ghent, the perfect conditions to take on Carmina Burana were there. Our concert tour in February 2014, and the recording of Carmina we will be issuing in October, testify to the amazing time we had dusting off this fabulous piece. The version I picked for this playlist, is something completely different – yet jaw-droppingly beautiful: Barbra Streisand – who I strongly admire – performs In trutina with warmth, emotion and a voice that will keep you focused until the very last second.
Spem in alium
(performers: Paul Van Nevel & Huelgas Ensemble)
Paul Van Nevel is not only a musical soul mate, but one of my closest friends as well. We both travel extensively – he, of course, with his celebrated Huelgas Ensemble – but we catch up whenever we can. His recording of Thomas Tallis’ legendary 40-part motet Spem in alium is especially dear to me, as I am a big admirer of this composer and his lavish polyphony. In 2002, I got to conduct a performance with Tallis’ 1575 Cantiones Sacrae myself, basically in a one-per-part-setting; this is the approach favored by Paul as well and – in my opinion – the one that reveals most clearly the beauty of renaissance counterpoint.
Jan Van den Hemel, Christopher Clarke, Matthias Griewisch, Joris Potvlieghe
To me, the use of a composer’s artistic vocabulary stands at the foundation of every present-day reading of musical repertoire. I don’t want to preach a doctrine of ‘authentic performance practice’, but believe in a logical approach to which musical sources, literature and above all the instruments at the disposal of a composer are key: the instruments convey a wealth of information concerning style, tempi, dynamics, acoustics and balance. Small wonder that several exquisite instrument builders, specialized in restoring/reconstructing historical models, have been of great importance to me throughout my career. Jan Van den Hemel, of course, Christopher Clarke, Matthias Griewisch and Joris Potvlieghe to name but a few. The latter’s clavichords are truly magnificent works of art, as this performance by colleague Miklos Spanyi of a Sonata by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach convincingly demonstrates.
Sonate in f, Wq. 62/6, H. 40
(performer: Miklos Spanyi)
Johann Jakob Froberger – Tombeau faict à Paris sur la mort de Monsieur Blancheroche
Leonhardt has been very important to me during several stages of my life. It was Paul Van Nevel who first introduced me to him in the early 60’s, by giving me the complete recording of Bach’s harpsichord concerti played by Leonhardt as a present – what a dazzling accomplishment! I followed Leonhardt ever since, attended concerts, got interested in his choices of instruments, and finally took the step to become a harpsichord player myself. Certainly inspired to do so by Leonhardt, I eventually didn’t become one of his students: his personality was so striking and unique, that I wanted to avoid at all price to become a copy of this genuinely unimitable artist. Many of his ideas and principles, however, I share – so I might not be an ‘official’ Leonhardt-descendant but I in some ways, I do consider myself to be one....
Home at last
(performer: Dave Brubeck)
Another keyboard player, indeed, and one who’s performance style is so dear to me, that it was near to impossible to select only one piece! I refrained from the usual suspect – Take five – to pick a favorite among his solo’s: Home at last.
Sing, Willow, Willow, Willow
(performer: Alfred Deller)
Does Alfred Deller, one of the pioneers of the Early Music movement and one of history’s most famous countertenors, really need an introduction…? He stood at the very beginnings of the historically sensitive approach of renaissance and baroque music, and back in those days his ‘sound’ and performances were truly novel. Impossible not to be influenced by an icon of such amplitude!
Johann Sebastian Bach – Das Wohltemperirte Clavier, Prelude & Fuga in Cis (Book II, nr. 3 – BWV872)
(performer: Kenneth Gilbert)
Canzona post il Communio (from: Old Italian Masters)
(performer: Flor Peeters)
Two performers in my play list influenced me mostly in my time as a music student: Flor Peeters was my organ teacher at the Antwerp conservatory, who raised my awareness of the historical diversity of keyboard instruments and of the relevance of using the right ‘tools’ for every performance. Another organ player I value a lot, is Marcel Druart – unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find a musical fragment that honors his memory. I did, however, track down several records featuring Kenneth Gilbert, the Canadian keyboard player and musicologist, who was once my harpsichord professor and encouraged my exploration of the early music repertoire.
Beethoven Sonata nr. 2 in A, Opus 12 nr.2: I. Allegro vivace
(performers: Midori Seiler & Jos van Immerseel)
To wrap up this list, and to follow up on so many names from a more-or-less distant past, I wanted to include Midori Seiler, who is very much part of my musical present: next to being a Konzertmeister at Anima Eterna Brugge regularly, she is also the violin soloist I like to turn to whenever the orchestra explores the concerto-repertoire, and one of my preferred chamber music partners. I therefore happily sign off here with a Sonata by another ‘compagnon de route’ without whom my life as a musician would not have been the same: Ludwig van Beethoven.