Chrono Orchestra Arrangement Box
Chrono Orchestra Arrangement Box
Square Enix Music
September 4, 2019
Buy at CDJapan
Chrono Orchestra Arrangement Box is a box set release that includes the Chrono Trigger Orchestral Arrangement and the Chrono Cross Orchestral Arrangement albums, both of which are also available separately. The box set also comes with an exclusive bonus album titled Chrono Special Disc ~ Piano Duo ~, with four piano duet arrangements. Thus the release follows the same pattern as the NieR orchestral albums from the previous year. While the orchestral albums are very straightforward in their arranging approach, the piano duets are a bit freer. The set comes at the same price as the NieR set, but the unambitious arrangements and the incredibly short length of the albums make this set a harder recommendation.
The Chrono Trigger Orchestral Arrangement Album focuses on the more popular songs from the soundtrack, with arrangements that for the most part very closely follow the originals. The appeal of these tracks is the improvement in sound over the original tracks, which often attempted to emulate the orchestra sound but always fell short. Thus tracks like “Presentiment / Chrono Trigger” and “Wind Scene / Frog’s Theme” effectively realize the potential of the original tracks, and even occasionally add new crescendoes and climaxes to give the songs more development. Tracks are often combined with others, but only in that one plays after the other, with little to no interplay between the two halves. This at times makes too much contrast as in “The Day the World Revived / Robo’s Theme”, but it works better for the more steadily emotional “Corridors of Time / Schala’s Theme.” Although it’s nice to hear these tracks played by the orchestra, but it would have been nice to also hear some new developments in the music, especially given the short album length.
These issues are much more prevalent in the Chrono Cross Orchestral Arrangement Album, since the original soundtrack sounded quite good to begin with, even utilizing live instruments at times. Thus while some tracks like “Bound by Fate” benefit a lot from having live strings to really give it the texture and atmosphere that the original was going for, other tracks like “CHRONO CROSS -Scars of Time-” don’t feel like a major improvement. The disc works better sequentially than in the Chrono Trigger album, as medleys like “The Girl Who Stole the Stars / Dreams of the Ages” and “The Frozen Flame / Dragon God” have a consistent emotional register, though the themes still don’t interact with each other. Only “Radical Dreamers -Le Trésor interdit-“ makes an attempt to depart from the original and build a fresh new arrangement that is dynamic, but it falls short in being too musically simple. Since this disc is also quite short, it feels more inessential compared to the Chrono Trigger disc.
In contrast to these two discs is the Chrono Special Disc ~ Piano Duo ~. Clocking in at just 25 minutes, the disc has four piano duet arrangements, two for each Chrono game, with all four tracks having already appeared on their respective orchestral arrangement albums. These arrangements are comparatively more adventurous than their orchestral counterparts, making it the most interesting disc of the package.
The Chrono Trigger pieces are arranged by Takuro Iga. The first of these is “Schala’s Theme”, a quiet and introspective piece. The additional piano player allows for more textures to be added to the track, which work particularly well with the nice new re-harmonizations, as well as the new midsection of improvisation. The arrangement is quite long at almost seven minutes, but the melody is so great and the performance so moving that it is hardly a problem. The other piece is the main theme, “Chrono Trigger”, which is more bombastic, and thus gives the pianists much more to do. This mostly just entails extra lines that provide more underlying textures, but it means that the newly added middle section of improvisation is that much more rich and impressive. The jazzy additions are quite wonderful and fun, while the ending sequence of the track is virtuosic and dazzling. If only there had been an orchestral equivalent of this.
The Chrono Cross pieces are arranged on the other hand by Yui Morishita. “CHRONO CROSS -Scars of Time-“ is the first of these, and its first portion of the song doesn’t offer anything too unexpected; the duet aspect of the song allows the duo to offer a more faithful transcription of the original, though there are also some extra ornamental lines and new accompaniment patterns too. But things only get interesting about three minutes in, when the song suddenly gives way to thick and fuzzy chords, which then change to dreamy cascades of notes, from which the original opening melody quietly emerges. These harmonic and textural shifts are quite unexpected but executed wonderfully. It’s a shame that the arrangement soon goes back to following the original track for its closing, which is still quite energetic and impressive, but not as creative as this midsection was. “The Girl Who Stole the Stars” is the other track, sticking to a contemplative atmosphere. Unfortunately this means that there are times when there isn’t exactly much for the second piano player to do, so there a several of sections of octaves thrown in to fill the role. Not that this is bad for the arrangement, but it hardly feels like the conceit of having piano duets was well used for this track. It’s considerably safer, largely sticking to the original in terms of accompaniment. It does sport a middle section of new material, and overall the track is still very lovely, but the bulk of the arrangement is familiar territory.
Chrono Orchestra Arrangement Box is a hard sell, not because the contents are bad or unpleasant to listen to, but because with the high price tag one expects much more than what is available here. First the arrangements are mostly uncreative, not bringing anything new to the tracks other than a sound upgrade. Then, the short medleys are squandered of their potential, as none of the tracks actually interact with each other. This becomes more jarring when one recalls that orchestral arrangements that manage to be both faithful and also creative already exist, such as those on Symphonic Fantasies. These with the fact that the albums are quite short make the whole package quite unacceptable, since both orchestral albums could have been combined into and sold for the price of one disc, as was done with other orchestral albums like drammatica. There isn’t even substantial new art included in the box set. The extra piano arrangements, though nice, hardly justify the exorbitant cost of the set, and should only be sought out by the most ardent fans of the games. Otherwise, it is fine to buy the orchestral albums separately or just pick out favourite tracks from digital stores, though one isn’t missing out on much by skipping this project altogether.
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Posted on January 22, 2020 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on January 22, 2020.