Anneke van Giersbergen is something of an enigma having constantly evolved her style over the years amassing an impressive back catalogue of work during her tenures with The Gathering, Agua de Annique, The Gentle Storm, Vuur and of course her eponymous band. She has also undertaken guest vocalist collaborations with Devin Townsend, Anathema, Árstíðir, Within Temptation and Ayreon to name but a few giving her an impressive curriculum vitae.

This latest album, the ‘Symphonized’ project, is well timed as the prelude to Anneke’s 25th anniversary, and having decided to work with Residentie Orkest The Hague, she chose to perform (and record) with just the orchestra rather than have the orchestra providing backing orchestrations for her band. This laid the songs bare and brought about a sense of intimacy and vulnerability to the performance which is extremely powerful.

Recorded last May in Tilburg and The Hague, the performance has a set list which covers all stages of her illustrious career (so far!), although the songs chosen are not necessarily the ones you might have expected……

Things get underway with tracks that will be familiar to most in the form of ‘Feel Alive’, ‘Amity’ and ‘Your Glorious Light Will Shine – Helsinki’. It is really interesting to hear the re-worked versions of these, and ‘Helsinki’ in particular benefits from the orchestral overhaul which sounds truly magnificent.

A cover version of ‘Two Souls’ by countrymen Lorrainville slows things down a little before a beautiful version of Henry Purcell’s aria ‘When I Am laid In Earth’ allows Anneke to show the true range of her vocal talents.

There is a return to the familiar with The Gathering’s epic ‘Travel’ which benefits from the symphonic makeover leading into an unreleased track entitled ‘Zo Lief’ which is sung entirely in Dutch with sweeping melodies creating a melancholic, pensive atmosphere.

‘You Will Never Change’ from the 2013 ‘Drive’ album increases the tempo a little with its pop sensibilities before the second VUUR track, ‘Freedom – Rio’ keeps the momentum going. The pace slows for ‘Forgotten” although the intensity is maintained through a riveting vocal performance. After a brief pause, the cheers subside as anthem ‘Shores of India’ takes over bringing the show to a climactic finale.

I’m sure fans will argue over the song choices – no Devin Townsend, no ‘Strange Machines’ and so on but the songs chosen work really well with the orchestra. Anneke’s voice is superb and the symphonic reworking of the tracks works well giving them all an extra dimension, serving as a modern retrospective, giving a symphonic and contemporaneous sound to key tracks from her career. Bring on the next 25 years….

(9/10 Andy Pountney)