First published in the Guardian on 8 October, 2015
30 years ago conductor Jos Van Immerseel gathered a handful of string players under the name Anima Eterna Brugge to explore French baroque and Viennese classical repertoire on period instruments. Now he’s marking his 70th birthday with this meaty Czech symphonic programme — still period instruments, though a few centuries newer. In Janacek’s 1926 Sinfonietta the impact is pretty subtle. Violins play on E strings made of gut rather than steel and use plenty of idiomatic slides between notes, but mostly it’s the light, bright articulation and taught energy that give away the band’s baroque sensibility. Patches of scrappy string playing come as a bit of a jolt but the brass fanfares are terrific — boisterous yet still clear as a bell. In Dvorak’s New World Symphony it’s a treat to hear the wind solos unfold with such svelte, silvery charm but Immerseel’s pacing tends toward plodding and the strings never find the dark-hewn heft they need.