Anneke Van Giersbergen may not be a household name, but she has the talent to be deserving of such status. Having worked with a huge range of artists – including the virtuosic, multifaceted Devin Townsend – and having accrued a vast amount of her own collection of work, both solo and with VUUR, The Gentle Storm and The Gathering, she is an incredibly prolific artist. In May 2018, she performed two ambitious, career spanning sets alongside Resident Orkest The Hague to create a symphonic reworking of her material, released here under the name of Symphonized.
The first thing to note on this album is intimacy. Whether it was the choice of smaller venues, or to lower the sound of the audience’s fervent applause is unclear, but there’s a real feeling of closeness between the artist and the attendees. Anneke also has an intrinsic, and obvious, connection to her music making it all feel desperately personal display rather than simply a performance. The operatic quality of her vocal talent masterfully serves the orchestra’s instrumentation, and serves as a humanising anchor in the Wagnerian bombast, despite her heavenly ability. This intimacy is most prescient on Zo Lief, a beautifully subtle piano lead piece filled with grandiose emotions and a tenderness from Anneke.
Where many bands an artists playing alongside an orchestra can feel like a vanity project, and often to mixed results, Van Giersbergen’s vast body of work lends itself perfectly to classical reinterpretation. The verbose nature of her various projects makes for a downright classy affair, this doesn’t feel like a classical take on a regular gig, rather a symphony performance in and of itself. You feel as if you should be wearing a three piece suit just to have the privilege of listening to it.
The album may lose some listeners in its over-earnestness. Anneke clearly believes deeply in the quality and meaning of her music, and this translates gorgeously into her vocal performance, but does become a bit overbearing. The breadth of the orchestral sound can become overwhelming at times in spite of its subtlety, and some fans of her previous work may find themselves reaching for the original albums as opposed to this live rendition.
Symphonized, despite any flaws, is a grandiose and bombastic piece of art, filled with exhilarating moments. The reinterpretation of Anneke’s vast body of work is stunning and feels as much of a classical performance as is possible to achieve under such circumstance. The orchestra plays incredibly – as you’d expect given they are professional classical players – and Van Giersbergen pours her heart into every ounce of her seemingly limitless vocal ability.
Symphonized is out now on InsideOut Music.