Final Fantasy X – Sonata Quasi Fantasia

Album Title:
Final Fantasy X – Sonata Quasi Fantasia
Publisher:
N/A
Catalog No.:
N/A
Release Date:
February 15, 2021
Purchase:
Buy at iTunes

Overview

Final Fantasy X – Sonata Quasi Fantasia is a solo piano project arranged and performed by Ramon von Engelenhoven under his One Winged Engel alias. The whole arrangement covers over a dozen tracks from the original soundtrack, spanning tracks from all three original composers: Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano. The arrangement first appeared on his YouTube channel years ago, but for this release it was updated and re-recorded. As a “Sonata Quasi Fantasia”, the work has four movements but does not otherwise hew too close to strict classical sonata forms, though there is plenty of early 20th century piano influence in some movements. As a whole, the work separates itself from other fan arrangement projects with virtuosic playing and a moving performance.

Body

The first movement is appropriately bookended with the emotional “Zanarkand”, which as a motifs peppers the entire work. The arrangement stays close enough to the original track at the beginning, but adds impressive arpeggios and flourishes. At the climax, it transitions into a brief “This Is Your Story” then quiets down into “Hymn of the Fayth”, which takes a departure from the game versions and other official arrangements by using “Macalania Woods” as an underlying texture. It grows dramatically and magnificently to incorporate “Summoning”, which is both impressive and narratively satisfying. The “Hymn” is overall one of my favourite sections of the work. From there there is a nice “Besaid” rendition which surprisingly but seamlessly changes into “Via Purifico”, which is played more forcefully than its other counterparts. “Zanarkand” closes the movement (with flashes of the “Hymn” and “Besaid”), capping off the introduction to the emotional core of the game.

Then shorter second movement is more interesting, generally more playful and spritely throughout, and roughly taking a ternary (A-B-A) structure. For what I would call the A theme, Ramon l deftly combines together “Thunder Plains”, “Grand Maester”, and “Splendid Performance”, in such a way that they sound unified as a single theme. The arrangement is filled out  nicely with very Debussy-like textures and figurations, which is a great match for Hamauzu’s compositional style in these tracks, setting it apart from the relatively simpler harmonic structures of the first movement. The B section of the movement is “Phantoms”, which works as a contrastingly calm middle section, though the wonderful shimmering high notes give it some common ground with the other themes of the movement. The technically challenging arrangement wonderfully balances staccato and sustained sections, and the dexterous playing keeps everything crystal clear throughout. I’m particularly pleased with the inclusion of “Phantoms” and “Splendid Performance”, which are often overlooked.

The third movement, effectively the slow movement of the whole work, has as its centrepiece the emotional “Suteki Da Ne” (with some of the melodic and rhythmic variations from “A Fleeting Dream” and “Yuna’s Theme” incorporated). I like that the arrangement draws on figures from the orchestral version of “Suteki Da Ne”, and the frequent shifts in rhythmic profile and voicing carry the movement forward. Heightening the emotion is the bookending of the movement with a slow rendition of “Wandering”, though it mostly ends up just being its chords. Even without the inclusion of the original’s sax melody, the melancholy theme is recognizable and effective. In fact, the whole movement has an emphasis on chords, which is refreshing; too often higher-level arrangements rely excessively on runs and big arpeggios to sound impressive and dramatic, but here the forceful chords of the climax more than do their job.

The virtuosic final movement is unsurprisingly focused on “Final Battle”, but also includes within it “Assault” and “Beyond the Darkness”, bringing things back to an early 20th century feeling, though now more Russian than French in influence. The arrangements for “Final Battle” and “Assault” stay even closer to the originals than the Piano Collections versions, but this is not a bad thing; they are dazzling and impressive as piano solos and I’ve always wanted more faithful renditions of these excellent tracks. Thanks to the disjointed nature of “Final Battle”, the arrangement is able to work in the other themes without them sounding out of place. At the climax of “Final Battle”, the arrangement shifts to the “Zanarkand” section of “Ending Theme”, which is neat though I wished there was more intermingling between the two themes. But rather than ending it there, the arrangement unexpectedly morphs back into “Wandering” to close out. It’s a thoughtful and moving ending, which is hardly out of place considering the source material.

Summary

Final Fantasy X – Sonata Quasi Fantasia is a great arrangement project that highlights the strengths of the original soundtrack and gives them solid pianistic arrangements that are well above the usual fare in complexity. It helps that so many of the pieces are well suited to the piano, but that doesn’t mean that considerable work wasn’t done to beef up the arrangements too. It’s nice to see tracks here that aren’t often arranged, and even those that were on the Piano Collections for the most part receive different enough arrangements here so that they are not redundant. Even though the arrangements are still pretty close to the originals and thus not very revelatory, it is all played very well without being needlessly grandiose, and the work succeeds at unifying the different composers’ styles into a streamlined and coherent piece, whereas the original soundtrack can feel like a mixed bag. I would have liked to see more layered interactions between the themes, as in the second movement, but overall it is a worthwhile trip back through the music of Spira.

Posted on November 5, 2021 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on November 5, 2021.

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