Reinventing the romantic, with Anima Eterna
‘Everyone in Anima is engaged in a constant dialogue: how could we do this differently? This openness has always touched me deeply, that willingness to stray from the well-travelled paths and just see what happens’.
Violinist Midori Seiler was Anima Eterna’s concertmaster for fifteen years. Those years laid the foundation for a close, artistic relationship. Seiler and Jos van Immerseel were also regular chamber-music partners for years. Their recording of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas is still resonating in many people’s ears. Her playing is often described as energetic, precise, impetuous and free, whether she’s playing the baroque repertoire (such as her recording of the Bach solo violin sonatas) or the classical and romantic repertoire.
‘Experimentation is essential for me. I want to bring the musicians together in a surprising, exciting and wholly new way of performing romantic music. I want to go in search of new experiences that shine new light on everything that we do afterwards’.
Knowing that we don’t have the answer yet still asking questions: for Seiler, this is the essence of her quest for the musical past. Especially in the romantic repertoire, the questions, Seiler feels, are still there for the asking. What aspects of the music are not in the score? Can we feel how it felt to make music then? Can our bodies help show us the way? Seiler took these questions to the researcher Kai Köpp (University of Bern). Köpp developed an unusual method that he calls ‘embodiment and re-enactment’: by imagining the past as a method actor would – through paintings, old recordings, indications in scores – you can pick up the scent of the unsaid and the unwritten. Could this drastically alter our concept of romantic music? Seiler and Köpp are sure that it will. For them, Anima Eterna is the ideal partner with whom to start up this experimental project.
‘I like to compare my role as conductor with that of a director in a play. You need her during the rehearsals, so that the actors know what their place is in the whole and what they have to watch out for. But she doesn’t need to be on stage during the performance itself. The actors are all playing their own parts then. That’s what I’d like to achieve with Anima Eterna’.
On this journey, Seiler and Köpp will go exploring with the musicians, first with the music of Clara and Robert Schumann, and later with the music of Camille Saint-Saëns. Seiler will also conduct her former colleagues from the first violin, something rarely done by the period orchestras who venture into the romantic repertoire. For the musicians of Anima Eterna, working with Seiler feels like ‘coming home’: Seiler knows Anima Eterna’s unique musical character through and through, and will perpetuate its traditions of research, inquiry, and playing with freedom.