This album came up in August 2013 soundtrack releases but I'm making a dedicated thread for it. As a Chrono Trigger fan who's always longed for an orchestral arranged album this is one of the few VGM releases so far this year I've been truly happy about. It's a fan arrangement of disc 1 of the OSV and features a sampled orchestra rather than a live one, but both the instrumental and arrangement quality are of higher quality than you'll find in quite a few official albums. If you're a CT fan looking for an orchestral adaptation of the original and fine with mid to high-end sampled orchestration then I recommend it.
I'll have a proper review after a while but here's a track by track for anyone into that sort of thing. Tracks marked + I like better than the OST version, - less, and ~ about the same or indifferent.
~ 1. A Premonition - The simple intro, with added orchestral tuning and chorus.
+ 2. Chrono Trigger - The sustain is a bit short on some of the brass notes (an issue that rears its head a few other times), but otherwise I prefer this version's fuller orchestral sound to the original.
++ 3. Morning Sunlight - A very pretty, elongated intro and completely new outro make what was a nice but insubstantial mini-melody in the original a proper free-standing piece and a highlight of the arranged album.
~ 4. Peaceful Days - A more chipper version of the original theme, with a bit of a Zelda thrown in. A nicely done original intro segment, faithful orchestral renditions of the lead and background instrumentation, and some minor extra touches like a brief and very subtle female chorus keep this happy melody as charming as ever, just in a different way than the OST.
~ 5. Memories of Green - A very faithful interpretation of the original - the tempo is a bit slower (not a bad decision) and the lead instruments not as distinct as the OST, but the backing strings in particular are more natural and the whisper quiet new outro has you soaking up every delicate note, adding an extra sense of closure and introspection over the simple repeat and fade of the OST.
+ 6. Guardia Millenial Fair - A short sustain on some of the opening instrumentation gives a slight awkward feel to the beginning, but it's soon forgotten as faithful but more lifelike orchestral renditions of the lead melodies and brief but energetic new trumpet accompaniment give one of the most endearing pieces of the OST a renewed sound. Despite how enjoyable it is though (in fact because of it) this is the first piece to reveal the main flaw of the album - it's simply too short. Still love it though.
++ 7. Gato's Song - A relatively minor theme from the OST but still a favorite, it's even better here. As in "Morning Sunlight", an extended intro and a completely new solo tuba outro make a delightfully eccentric theme even more so. This is also the first of a few arrangements to prominently feature an added chorus, which might sound suspect but in this case works fantastically.
+ 8. A Strange Happening - This is one of my few two-star pieces in the OST, where I found it repetitive and slightly annoying. I still don't care it here but the less synthy orchestration makes it less bothersome.
+ 9. Wind Scene: A somewhat more delicate rendition than in the OST. The opening piano adds to the introspective feel of the piece, even more so the lovely swell of strings as they join in, and though the solo flute is distractingly under-mixed a newly arranged ending brings the piece to a more complete and moving finale than in the OST.
+ 10. Goodnight - Another very short mini-melody that benefits from an added segment new to the arranged album.
- 11. Secret of the Forest - I loved the distinctive instrumentation of this low-key, atmospheric reprise of the main theme in the OST, despite the overly simplistic and gamey backing bass. Here we have an almost one-to-one resynth, and though that bassline has been given longer, more natural-sounding orchestral notes the instrumentation on the whole isn't nearly as distinctive. It's still a nice track but doesn't compare well to the original.
+ 12. Battle - Since this was one of the least orchestral tracks of the OST it understandably requires some of the most substantial arrangement. If this is an example of Robinson's arranging talents then I say arrange away, because his orchestral take turns out fantastic. From the opening deep brass notes to the newly added rising background strings and chorus, the energetic but previously slightly frivolous battle theme now has a much more serious dramatic quality. As in "Chrono Trigger" the sustain sounds short on some brass notes and as in "Guardia Millenial Fair" the track ends too soon, but it's great while it lasts.
+ 13. Guardia Castle - I wasn't a huge fan of this track in the OST - it had its moments but the synthy lead trumpets and high-pitched strings were annoying. This re-synth is a significant improvement, from the resounding percussion to the more realistic (though still slightly off) trumpets and strings. The brief addition of a choir once again works surprisingly well.
+ 14. Huh - The most disposable of the mini-melodies in the OST's first disc, to its credit the piece isn't nearly as annoying here.
++ 15. Manoria Cathedral - A slightly annoying track in the OST that I would have never thought to listen to twice, here it's been arranged into a lovely and poignant highlight of the soundtrack. Not only is the far more delicate sampled choir a huge improvement, a beautiful new intro of piano and cello and an entirely new instrumental reprise add a whole new level of meaning.
+ 16. A Prayer To The Road That Leads - Another OST mini-melody given a much more substantial and meaningful arrangement, this time via a quiet chorus.
- 17. Silent Light - A slightly enlongated but mostly straight-up resynth of the original. The instrumentation is more subtle and lifelike but the lead piano and flute less distinctive and noticeable than in the OST. It works fine in the flow of the album but loses out to the original.
~ 18. Boss Fight 1 - This is the only arrangement of the album to feature a synth electric guitar, which though true to the OST was a mistake in an otherwise fully orchestral album. That odd exception aside the transition to orchestra and chorus turns out well - not as upbeat as the very synthy original but with a more serious sense of danger.
~ 19. Frog's Theme - Ah the unforgettable musical moment of Chrono Trigger OST and one of the great character themes of all time. First of all that all-important lead flute doesn't have the incredibly distinctive quality of the OST version (which to be fair is a feat no arrangement of the theme to date has managed). That said the accompanying orchestration is powerful and dramatic when it comes to a climax, and the added choir though surprising at first sounds natural after a few listens. It's not the ultimate arrangement I continue to wait for but it's a nice alternate arrangement to the OST (and far better than the PlayStation version arrangement). Like some other favorites it's a shame to hear it come to a close so soon.
+ 20. Fanfare - A more orchestral take on the slightly poppy original victory fanfare, the trumpets boasting much more drama and the added chorus making a nice continuation from "Frog's Theme". Once again Robinson adds substantially to an originally very brief piece - this time with a tasteful flute and piano refrain - and the theme comes out better for it.
- 21. The Trial - Another great theme and another example of memorable, distinctive SNES sound design from the original. And one of the few cases where Robinson's orchestrations struggle to match. The opening arrangement sounds too plodding, nearly every instrument lacks the impact of the OST synth, and the sudden conclusion ends the piece with a whimper. Strangely below the standard of the rest of the album.
~ 22. The Hidden Truth - A brief but climactic piece from the OST that remains so here. The short sustain on some of the lead notes is quite noticeable but the chorus and torrential strings compensate.
~ 23. Critical Moment - Considering this was one of the most repetitive and least orchestral pieces of the OST, Robinson does a good job adapting it. Strangely this is one of the few arrangements to end with a simple fade. Though true to the OST, it's too bad he didn't take the opportunity to end the album with a bang with another excellent original outro.