There's another FF concert in the works, with this one specifically dedicated to FF6, 7 and 10. The same two dudes from Symphonic Fantasies will be arranging, but this time Hamauzu will be arranging as well. It looks like this could be an interesting show!
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Indeed, for me the weakest track, the one I'm least interested in listening to when I listen to Symphonic Fantasies, is the FF medley. There's just way too much ground to cover.
Limiting the scope of the show to those particular FF games, whether they do three large-scale medley/movement tracks or if they have individual performances, either way it'll be a much more satisfying experience.
And seriously, if they just take the track selection from FFX Piano, add a song here, subtract a song there, and let Hamauzu do full orchestra arranges of the piano tracks, it'll be perfect.
Just secured four tickets for the 19:30 performance!
I just hope they can release a CD like the other concerts they've had.
I'm positive that Böcker is able to negotiate something with Square-Enix. Considering their positive attitude to official music releases I guess an album release is kinda realistic.
Just wanted to add that apparantly there are no plans for a CD release nor a livestream of the concert. I can't confirm this myself, but the information was supposedly posted on the Facebook account.
Anyway, THIS SUCKS...
Anyone else than LiquidAcid going to this? We are about 15 people coming from Finland and I'm sure many other countries will be represented too!
There's also a concert in London, anyone going to that one? I have a ticket, but I don't know anyone there. It would be great to meet up.
Since no one updated this thread, I'll go ahead and make a short list:
- May 11th at 14:30 and 19:30 in Wuppertal, Germany (next to Cologne) (tickets SOLD OUT)
- May 30th at 19:30 in London, UK by the London Symphony Orchestra! (first time they perform game music live) (tickets available)
- FF VI arranged by Roger Wanamo (you need to listen to his Final Boss Medley from SF Tokyo)
- FF VII arranged by Jonne Valtonen
- FF X arranged by Masashi Hamauzu
- Benyamin Nuss on piano
- Uematsu & Hamauzu will be a guests of honour at all three concerts (meet & greet is free)
- FF VI arranged by Roger Wanamo
- FF VII arranged by Jonne Valtonen
Sounds like they have arranged pretty much the perfect setup for this concert. (I remember thinking the same thing about Symphonic Legends and that turned out fantastic.)
Valtonen gets to arrange the more progressive FFVII (imagine him doing what he did for Secret of Mana in Symphonic Fantasies) while Wanamo gets to arrange the more traditional FFVI (which he already did some fantastic work with in Symphonic Odysseys). FFX I am not so concerned with but still it'll be interesting hearing what Hamauzu does with it (I hope they leave the focus on piano for that suite).
And the London Symphony Orchestra performing a game orchestral concert. We have come a long way!
Get pics! Give Namorbia a big hug from me!
I leave that to Teioh and Hamu since I don't own any camera. Hamu is probably going to take shots for his review anyway.
It's looking likely I'll be there for the evening show in Wuppertal as well. Beyond excited!
Did everyone else going decide their transportation arrangements? I'm debating whether to stay the night in Wuppertal or take the train after the show to my next destination. If beers with other STC'ers are involved I'd certainly like to hang around!
By the way, I'm unfortunately unable to attend this concert, so I have two electronic tickets for sale. They're for seats 15 & 16 from the 19th row (parkett links), so the view should be good. If anyone here wants to go, please send me a message. I accept PayPal.
EDIT: The tickets are for the 19:30 concert in Wuppertal. I'm asking for the same price that I paid myself, that is 44 EUR per ticket.
Haven't visited the board in ages, but now that I did, I want you guys to know I'll be there, too. Expect to find me around Namorbia. For the photo purposes, I'll have my camera with me, so why not have a STC photo session? If we should run into each other. As for transport arrangements and other stuff, we Finns arrive in Wuppertal on Friday and leave on Sunday, so some two days worth of staying in town. Looking forward to seeing whoever are attending.
I'll be arriving in Wuppertal the day of the show and staying there the night. I think I should make it early enough for a meet-up before the show, or after would be fine too. Jousto and anyone else who is interested, send me a mail through my forum account and we'll make it happen.
Very interested to hear what Valtonen, Wanamo and Hamauzu have cooked up this time around!
Sorry for not giving an update before the concert. We had some kind of last-minute change and lost our driver, so I had to go by train. Something which I wanted to avoid, since this meant either leaving already right after the concert or waiting until 4~5 o'clock in the morning to get the first train. I decided for the first option.
Anyway, here's some goodies I got from / got signed at the concert.
Concert leafleat (front):
Sigma Harmonics for Hamauzu-san:
I let Teioh sign this for me, autograph is now on the back of the slipcase. Thanks Teioh!
Lost Odyssey for Uematsu-san. I think he probably gets really bored when just seeing Final Fantasy the _whole_ day. So I brought him this for a change *g*
Final Fantasy XIII for Hamauzu-san:
Since the booklet has a large double-page by him, why not put the autograph there?
Sailing to the World - Piano Score for Hamauzu-san:
A bit obscure, since the music is from Yasunori Mitsuda, but Hamauzu arranged it beautifully for piano.
EDIT: No idea why the IMG tags aren't working. So if you want to see the pics, just click the links.
I went to both concerts and it was great to meet old friends and new ones, like Adam Corn! He is a tall smooth-looking guy and interesting to talk to! We got a group picture with him, us Finns and Uematsu!
I wrote down my impressions of the concert. It's not very detailed with what tracks were used where. Just what I remember best. There is also a low-quality audience recording of the concert on YouTube. If you're going to the London Concert, don't spoil yourself by listening to it or reading my or others' impressions.
Circle Within a Circle Within a Circle
- Composed by Jonne Valtonen
FINAL FANTASY VI
Symphonic Poem (Born with the Gift of Magic)
- Arranged by Roger Wanamo
I really loved this arrangement. Roger layers stuff like always and it's apparent from the beginning with Terra. When it gets faster and circus-like with Kefka, it feels really chaotic, crazy and comic. It felt a bit weird in the beginning, I didn't know whether to take it seriously or laugh. In the end I was simply in awe. Like holy smokes, this isn't video gamey, but neither does it sound like classical music. It is just crazy awe-inspiring fun!
After that it mellows down. I really like the xylophone or whichever instrument does the suspended bell-type of sound. Another World of Beasts sounds really good, the instrumentation is fantastic. The Unforgiven (the hurrying/escaping song) leads up the Battle Theme, which is really great and dancey, like the original piece. The brass sounds wonderful. I just listened to this again on YouTube and I realized how many themes were used in this part. Typical Roger, I guess
The final part with Terra's Theme is utterly amazing. My eyes got wet and it was the second best live-vgm-concert-piece-experience in my life. After this piece ended, the MC/host Winfried Fechner talked for a reaaally long time. But that gave me the chance to calm down from this fantastic experience. I was teary-eyed and speechless for 5-10 minutes after the piece ended. (By the way, my #1 experience was Final Fantasy Piano Concerto at East Meets West in Cologne in 2012.)
FINAL FANTASY X
- Arranged by Masashi Hamauzu (and someone said Roger Wanamo did the orchestration)
- Performed by Benyamin Nuss
This arrangement was hard to grasp. I can't remember anything from the first half, except for some Zanarkand The second half from Thunder Plains got more rhythmic and fun. Then there were only a few tones of low piano continuing into the hymn song. The low piano tones felt really bold. They were minimalistic and told the audience to calm down and focus on this single tone in the sound spectrum. In the end there was Attack, which was great. I was jumping a bit in my seat and enjoying the rhythmic piano.
My wife and AkumuAudi said this was their favorite piece.
FINAL FANTASY VII
Symphony in Three Movements
- Arranged by Jonne Valtonen
This was a 41-minute symphony in three movements. I also would like to listen to this several times, because it's so massive and complex. After Jenova in the beginning came a very Jonne-esque part with scary downward Jenova piano, weird sounds with bending the pitch of string instruments and sudden orchestra hits. For me, the walking piano was Cloud wandering in a dark place and the super scary orchestra hits being his sudden bursts of headaches. The other sounds came from the surrounding environment. Then it goes into One-Winged Angel. I was surprised by how much I loved it. I've heard it many times live, but never like this. During the first concert it felt weird, because it was less melodic than the original piece and I expected something else. But during the second concert I was truly amazed by how great it was. It felt like being crushed by a giant Sephiroth monster of darkness, because this arranged was very marching and brutal. Less melody, more steamrolling power.
I really lost track of the rest of the arrangement, especially the second movement. Cosmo Canyon and Cid's Theme in the end was really heroic, with images of sunrise, the canyons and Cosmo Canyon in the distance.
The first encore was Game Over and Anxious Heart from FF VII. It was nice and I enjoyed it.
The second encore was really amazing. It started with Atma Weapon and then abruptly went to Mog from FF VI. It simply pure fun. I enjoyed it so much! The conductor Eckhard Stied was also dancing and moving his hips to the music! The ending was perfect with a few comical repetitive phrases and a triangle, which felt very light after this heavy concert
Very ambitious and complex arrangements, which makes me want to listen to them again and again. The first performance was good, the second performance was great. My wife said the same thing. Luckily I'm going to the London concert too.
I would love a CD + an overdubbed commentary track with the arrangers explaining what is happening where and why.
I think in all the excitement from the concert Namorbia must be getting me mixed up with himself. It was great hanging out him, Jousto, Echo, friends, girlfriends, wives, and for five second Nobuo Uematsu. Good times guys, I am looking forward to seeing those pictures!
The concert itself was quite the good time as well. Symphonic Fantasies Tokyo last year was my first Symphonic series concert to see live, but this was the first time to hear a brand new Symphonic concert in a live setting. It was in ways overwhelming, both in a sense of the experience itself and in a sense of the sheer amount and complexity of new music to take in. Am very happy I could be in Germany for it!
I'll be posting some impressions of my own soon but in the meantime you London concert goers have quite the show to look forward to!
Here's my review of the second Final Symphony show in Wuppertal, which I attended during my six-week whirlwind European tour. (The concert was actually my inspiration for traveling to the continent). Not only did I see a great orchestral concert featuring some of my favorite soundtracks, I got to hang out with STC members Namorbia, Jousto and Echo as well. Good times!
Final Symphony Overview
On May 11 in Wuppertal, Germany, Merregnon Studios presented the fifth in their Symphonic series of orchestral game music concerts, Final Symphony, featuring original arrangements of music from Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X. Though Merregnon's Symphonic series concerts have featured Final Fantasy music before, this was the first to be dedicated exclusively to the series. The first half of the program was divided between two long symphonic movements - an 18 minute symphonic poem for FFVI arranged by Roger Wanamo, and a 20 minute piano concerto for FFX arranged by original co-composer Masashi Hamauzu, featuring Benyamin Nuss on piano. The second half of the program consisted of a behemoth 41 minute, three movement symphony for FFVII arranged by Jonne Valtonen.
Anyone familiar with the Symphonic series concerts knows their arrangements can be fairly complex, and soon into the show it became clear that it's far too much to take in in a single sitting. I'd like to mention several highlights, though, and offer some thoughts on the show as a whole.
Final Fantasy VI
The first part of the concert was my most anticipated, FFVI still being my all-time favorite game OST and Roger Wanamo's arrangement style in previous Symphonic concerts seeming perfectly suited to it. Now the first thing to realize with FFVI is that even an 18 minute arrangement is not nearly enough to cover all its highlights. Wanamo wisely chose certain key story themes and their matching musical motifs to focus on instead. Of the inevitable omissions I'd say FFVI's fantastic character themes and reprises were the most missed, but these could comprise an entire separate twenty minute musical extravaganza on their own (as the ending theme in FFVI OSV proves).
The two character themes that DID make the cut, however, are from a narrative perspective the most important of the soundtrack, Kefka and Terra. "Kefka" we've heard arranged before in FFVI Grand Finale, as well as briefly in Symphonic Fantasies Tokyo, but the arrangement here was far more elaborate and robust. Beginning with an almost elegant waltz, it grew in intensity to a mishievous march and then a chaotic finale fitting the character. "Terra" received an even greater focus; Wanamo's arrangements tend to have certain binding musical themes that surface repeatedly and in this case Terra was the one. First only hinted at, with small traces interwoven into the opening arrangement of the "The Empire Gestahl" (itself superbly done), it made its most pronounced appearances later in the apocalyptic reprise "Metamorphosis" and in a truly grand finale.
Besides boasting the narrative quality common in Wanamo's works, the most impressive quality of the FFVI suite was its use of several minor themes and reprises that, though not favorites in the OST, showed huge improvement and impact in arranged form. The previously mentioned "The Empire Gestahl" and "Metamorphosis" were two such pieces. The spooky, atmospheric "Another World of Beasts" was another - not exactly a favorite on the OST, but important to the narrative and very dramatic arranged.
Fans will be happy to hear that the battle themes made a big appearance. The most memorable among them for me was FFVI's staple "Battle Theme". I would've thought this piece too gamey for a classically influenced symphonic arrangement but Wanamo pulled it off nicely, keeping all the energy of the original but with added drama. A flurry of other battle themes surrounded it, beginning with a riveting rendition of "The Unforgiven" (again, not a favorite in the OST but great here) and ending with "Save Them". One of my favorite things I remember about the Little Jack Orchestra FFVI concert several years back was their unabashedly powerful, immensely enjoyable performances of the FFVI battle themes, and this segment in Final Symphony brought much the same feeling.
In a departure in style from his previous Symphonic series works, Wanamo brought the suite to quite the chaotic climax. I found this to be the one weak moment of the suite, with some jolting, forced interruptions by Kefka's theme detracting from the excitement of the battle pieces, and the climax feeling a bit rushed. Fortunately the arrangement of Terra's theme that followed quickly set things right, concluding the suite with triumph, classical grandeur, and a touch of reminiscense.
Even with the uncharacteristically chaotic climax I enjoyed every minute of the FFVI suite. There was some nice fan service in the battle themes, several important pieces that would have been overlooked in any other production were given very impressive orchestral treatments, and the few major themes that had been arranged previously boasted dramatic new interpretations unlike anything before. As a FFVI fan it was great to be there listening.
Final Fantasy X
Of the three titles featured in the concert, my recollection of FFX's piano concerto is the most vague. Though a large part of this is no doubt because its OST is by far the one I listen to the least of the three, also I think it's because Hamauzu's use of the original themes wasn't quite as pronounced. It often felt more like an original orchestral work paying homage to FFX than a traditional arrangement per se. Does that mean it was bad? Not in the slightest. It was, to put it succinctly, very pretty. Hamauzu seems to be at his best when combining piano with orchestra, and certainly it made for a lovely combination here.
The first movement was from start to finish a serene affair, the soft strings and piano reminiscent of Hamauzu's Symphonic Legends Donkey Kong Country arrangement and even some of Yoko Kanno's works (both high praise). "Zanarkand" was the recurring theme for this movement, and though foregoing the heart-rending poignancy of the dedicated Distant Worlds arrangement, it was beautiful nonetheless. The second movement changed to "Song of Prayer" for its recurring theme and briefly picked up in intensity for a lively arrangement of "Thunder Plains", while the third-movement continued this progression to the battle themes "Battle of Summoned Beasts" and "Final Battle".
Mostly though the suite had as much an emphasis on mood and texture as on the melodies of its source themes. In fact in my two favorite moments of the suite I couldn't place their origin from the OST at all. I just enjoyed soaking up the gorgeous violin solos and the fluttering winds and chimes.
Though the piano arrangement played an important part throughout the concerto, by Symphonic series standards it seemed on the simple side and I think couldn't have been as challenging for Benyamin Nuss as his previous performances. That said when the suite picked up in intensity so did Nuss's performance, and by the time the climactic third movement came along he was at times out of his seat.
With so much original material arranged for it, Hamauzu's piano concerto seemed almost like a FFX side story in and of itself. The lack of a clear direction midway through had me questioning the outcome, but by the end it felt like it had all come together. Even not being a FFX fan myself, I found the concerto a beautiful interlude between the surrounding two more dramatic suites.
Final Fantasy VII
The entire second half of the program was dedicated to Jonne Valtonen's three movement, 41 minute FFVII suite. This one began at its darkest and most furious, the first movement focusing on the likes of "Jenova" and "One Winged Angel". I would be the first to bemoan yet another "One Winged Angel" arrangement but this one was intriguing from start to finish, among other reasons for being the first to be arranged purely orchestrally - no choir involved. (In fact there was no choir for the entire concert, a refreshing change of pace when almost all VGM concerts strangely insist on one.) The arrangement was chaotic and quite loud in places but as with Kefka's theme this seemed appropriate, and the roaring timpani at its end brought the movement to a raging conclusion.
The second movement I call "the pretty one". Beginning with "Interrupted by Fireworks", it then moved on to "Main Theme of FFVII", "Tifa's Theme" and "Aerith's Theme". "Interrupted by Fireworks" especially I was thrilled to hear - an immensely pretty and poignant piece held back before only by the OST's limited sound system, in arranged form it was more beautiful than ever. "Tifa's Theme" was lovely as well, Valtonen's arrangement remedying the slightly excess sentimentality of the OST version. The other two themes we've heard orchestrally before, but the unique arrangements here made great use of solo instrumentation and intertwined the themes beautifully together.
If the second movement was the pretty one then the third was the uplifting one, beginning with the character themes "Cosmo Canyon" and "Cid's Theme". Frankly I would not have expected Valtonen to include these two fairly simplistic - though melodic and very memorable - themes in his suite. Not that I'm complaining. While nicely dressed up for orchestra they remained as melodic as ever and made a great bit of fan service to kick off the final movement with.
As is often the case in Valtonen's works there were parts that were hard to get a handle on at first. In particular at the end of the second movement, following such pretty arrangements for the FFVII Main Theme, Tifa, and Aerith, the music surprisingly moved into dark and dissonant territory, only to shift again at the start of the third movement into the uplifting themes for Cosmo Canyon and Cid. That somewhat dissettling interlude felt like it may have detracted from the emotional impact of the piece more than it contributed (with additional listens and better familiarity that might not be the case). Also, as in Wanamo's FFVI suite, the final climax felt just a bit anticlimactic. It began superbly with a raging arrangement of "Jenova Absolute", but an experimental passage that followed featuring short, abbreviated bursts of various themes from the game felt sudden and slightly underdeveloped. Fortunately, also similar to the FFVI suite, the final resolution set things right - in this case with a beautiful rendition of the ending theme's triumphant final passages.
I consider Valtonen's Secret of Mana suite and Legend of Zelda symphonic poem from previous Symphonic series concerts two of the most momentous orchestral VGM works in existence, so it's hard to say from a single listen whether his FFVII symphony reached that same lofty pinnacle. Certainly it made it very high up the mountain. Of Valtonen's arrangements to date it felt perhaps the most like a true symphony, but at the same time was full of favorite FFVII themes true to the originals' spirit. I'd always wondered whether a purely symphonic work could do justice to FFVII's synth-heavy soundtrack, but in Final Symphony I think they might actually have pulled it off.
Following the main program came two encores. Whereas previous Symphonic series encore pieces have been fairly extensive medleys, this time we had two arrangements focused mostly on singular themes. I couldn't have been happier about the first encore, FFVII's "Anxious Heart". Though more ambient than the various standout battle themes and character themes of FFVII's OST, it's always been one of my favorites, and its orchestral version was all I could have hoped for. (It could just as easily have served as a prologue to the main FFVII symphony.) The second and final encore piece, after a teasingly misleading intro, was the moogle theme from FFV and FFVI. A simpler and obviously more lighthearted piece by Symphonic series standards, it made a nice bit of fun to close the program.
Venue & Performance
These two opening performances for Final Symphony were held in the Historische Stadthalle in Wuppertal, Germany (a third performance was later held in London). It was a smaller venue than I'm used to for orchestral concerts, which from a listener's perspective is not a bad thing at all. Unlike certain other orchestral game music concerts there was no use of amplication, so you could hear the music directly from the orchestra as it should be. Sitting in the middle of the hall the sound stage was one of the most surround-like I've heard - several times I found myself closing my eyes just to soak it all in. When eyes were open the spectacular interior of the Historische Stadthalle contributed to the classical quality of the show. It being my first time to hear each arrangement it's hard to judge the quality of the performance, but given the complexity of the material I'd say the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra performed impressively.
Compared to other orchestral game concert series the Symphonic series productions have been nothing if not ambitious. The results have been in some cases among my all-time favorite VGM works (Symphonic Fantasies and Symphonic Legends), in others not so much so, but in each case have offered completely original, aspiring takes on their featured series. Final Symphony was no different. As a fairly strict critic of orchestral arrangements and a huge fan of two of the soundtracks featured I'm sure I wasn't the easiest audience member to please, but I came away impressed by the show and feeling justified in making the trip to Germany for it. Not to mention very hopeful for an eventual album release, so I can enjoy it again many times over.
Thanks for the overview, Adam! Man, I wish I was there.
Final Symphony to be performed in Denmark by the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, May 9, 2014. I don't read Danish but it appears tickets are on sale now.
Anyone in Europe should definitely go to Final Symphony in Denmark.
(Check out the Facebook event. I bought my ticket already.)
I went to the German concerts and the London one. The concert is A LOT better the second time. The arrangements are so great and complex, that I couldn't fully grasp them at first.
And that's exactly the reason why you should go. If you've seen the concert already, you'll get much more out of it. If you haven't seen it, you should go, because it's simply the best concert Thomas has produced. (Yes, even better than Symphonic Fantasies. But my opinion might change, if I ever get to attend SF again.)
I believe Final Symphony will be performed many times in the future. Thomas always said he wanted VGM to be performed alongside classical music. Final Symphony could be it. The arrangements are real symphonies (thought apparently that's subjective, read Jonne's thoughts on it) and the London Symphony Orchestra liked them very much (Jonne talked excitedly about it). The arrangements don't need a choir or other extra musicians, except for a pianist. So it is logistically not difficult to organize. I remember Thomas saying how lucky they were to pull off Symphonic Fantasies Tokyo. They needed a date when everyone was available: orchestra, concert hall, conductor, choir, Merregnon team, Rony Barrak, Benyamin Nuss and a bunch of composers.
Hopefully there will be more concerts and an album release. Did anyone notice the "??? 2013/2014" album hint at ffsymphony.com? A friend pointed it out to me.
More performances for Final Symphony have been announced. The concert schedule for 2014:
May 4: Tokyo (Tokyo Philharmonic)
May 9: Aarhus (Aarhus Symphony)
June 18: Stockholm (Royal Stockholm Philharmonic)
Links for all three events are at the official Final Symphony site. I might have to find my way back to Japan by May!
Did anyone notice the "??? 2013/2014" album hint at ffsymphony.com? A friend pointed it out to me.
That has me intrigued. I'm hoping to see those ??? replaced with something more informative in the near future.
The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra performs music from Nobuo Uematsu's Final Fantasy VI, orchestrated as a symphonic poem called Born with the Gift of Magic (arr Roger Wanamo). Conductor Andreas Hanson. Recording from June 2014.
Ah, Moses beat me to it.
Just to elaborate, this is a high-quality video recording of the 18-minute Final Fantasy VI symphonic poem from the Stockholm performance of Final Symphony.
Aside from the audio-video quality itself (which is excellent), the production values behind the video recording are quite nice as well. Sometimes I find orchestral concert video a bit hokey, but the camerawork and editing here are very tastefully done.
So yes, click away: