The artistic legacy of Jos van Immerseel
‘Jos is a musician who can elicit an enormous feeling of freedom. That touched me so much the first time I played with Anima: he doesn’t impose his will on the musicians, but trusts their capabilities. You’re invited to speak from your own perspective as a musician. That’s truly a unique experience’. – Midori Seiler
Anima Eterna wouldn’t be Anima Eterna without the abundance of artistic inspiration it has received from Jos van Immerseel. He founded the orchestra in 1987, expanded it bit by bit, from one production to the next, and made all the major artistic decisions until 2021. His artistic vision, the basis of the Anima Eterna sound, has also fuelled the inquisitive mindset of its musicians. At the same time, Van Immerseel has created a musical culture within the orchestra that relies on the personal responsibility and inspiration of each musician individually.
His work is reflected in the way the musicians of Anima Eterna sit on stage today. In how they feel in the music, how they sound. But above all, in the questions they ask themselves and each other. Out of the (sometimes uneasy) confrontation with an instrument, a particular technique or a score, again and again there comes a new spark: the energy needed to keep searching and experimenting. This ceaseless flow of seeking and finding, then seeking again and finding again, is perhaps Van Immerseel’s greatest legacy. The flow, he feels, can go on forever. To safeguard this continuity, he decided to exchange his active role at the forefront of the organisation for a more supporting role in the background.
‘Jos always allows everyone to share the honours. Even the score gets applause’. – Beltane Ruiz, contrabass
The conviction that music can speak to us, and that composers made use of the laws of rhetoric until well into the nineteenth century, lies at the heart of Van Immerseel’s artistic views. Many of the musicians still remember how, during the recording of the Mozart piano concertos, he spent days dissecting and interpreting each and every rhetorical figure. The result was concertos that ‘spoke’ so clearly and eloquently that they were hailed as ‘new’. Today, Van Immerseel is passing on his knowledge of rhetorical figures in a series of intensive masterclasses for the Anima musicians. He will also be diving into the Anima Eterna archives in the next few years. He aims to document the history of the orchestra, as well as to allow people to see the huge amount of research that’s been done over the years. The same question applies here: How can we make the wealth of experience and insights of thirty-five years of Anima Eterna accessible for future generations?
‘I’m enormously grateful that Jos wants to share his knowledge and his way of understanding music with us like this. The masterclass on rhetoric made the real soul of Anima Eterna so much clearer to me. We’ll take this legacy with us into our work with the new conductors’. – Barbara Erdner, violin
Fortunately, Jos van Immerseel is not completely abandoning the orchestra. In the coming years, he’ll play symphonic works with them which he is eager to try out using the Anima approach. He’ll also continue to perform on international concert stages as a keyboard player and chamber musician. Lastly, he’ll have free time to indulge some old loves, such as recording three centuries of French harpsichord music for the Channel Classics label. Or maybe he’ll resurrect the St. Matthew Passion…?