Eorzean Symphony: Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Album
Eorzean Symphony: Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Album
Square Enix Music
December 20, 2017
Buy at CDJapan
Eorzean Symphony: Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Album is Blu-Ray release that compiles both studio recordings and live concert recordings of orchestral arrangements of music from Final Fantasy XIV, spanning the original release through A Realm Reborn and up to the Heavensward expansion. The studio and live concert audio are also able to be purchased as separate digital albums. The arrangements featured are mostly from Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Album, with a few new arrangements. Although the originals generally emulated orchestral sounds to begin with, it is nice to see them realized and performed in a true concert hall setting, even if there isn’t much new material.
Firstly, the studio recordings here replicate all of those present on the Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Album. For the most part these arrangements are all very close to their originals, sometimes with small alterations to the instrumentation in the second half of each track when material is repeated, as for example when percussion drops out on the second half of “Heroes”, or when the lead violin gets the spotlight on “Calamity Unbound”. Most tracks benefit merely from being performed by full orchestra and choir with few changes, as in the case of “Serenity” and “Ultima”, though some falter a bit like “Ominous Prognisticks” and “Revenge Twofold” which lose some of their original atmosphere. The only one with a substantial addition is “Painted Foothills”, with its new rousing coda that works very well.
The new studio-recorded arrangements are “Moebius” and “Oblivion”. Like the others, “Moebius” follows its original closely, which was an excellent creative orchestral take on “Locus”. There are a few setbacks in the orchestral version, such as the awkward disconnected notes of the introduction (carried over from the original, but they should have been smoothed out here), or the rhythmic offsets that occur once the piano ostinato comes in, which don’t sound as clean. But to make up for it there is a very fun interruption that will please those who played through the game. The there is “Oblivion”, which actually takes the route of a chamber arrangement, being a string quartet performance. It draws some of its figures from the acoustic “Never Let Go Version” of the track (from Duality). As the original is a J-Rock track, the translation to quartet, though ambitious, is not entirely successful; the melodies are too rudimentary and repetitive to work well as an instrumental performance (a problem which most pop and rock melodies have). Further, the performance lacks the raw sound that is characteristic of chamber music; only at its second chorus and bridge do I feel like the arrangement is starting to work as a chamber arrangement. That’s not to say that the preceding material is unpleasant, but it is by not very successful at being the intimate and emotional arrangement that it aims to be. It would have worked better with a vocal to lead the ensemble.
As for the live portion of the package, all of the studio-recorded tracks are performed here, and there isn’t any surprise as to how they are handled; they’re solid performances of competent arrangements. The only notable change is in the performance of “Moebius”, which has an alternate interruption that makes it more fun and outlandish. Additionally, there are a number of other tracks performed for the concert which are included among the audio files and footage. The first of these is “A New Hope”, which is largely just a performance of the original track with insignificant changes. Both “A World Apart” and “Torn From the Heavens” are also in this vein, though the latter is at a quicker tempo which works well. It’s nice to hear these with full orchestra, though it’s a shame there isn’t any new material in them. “Breaking Boundaries” is more like the other arrangements, following it’s original closely but varying instrumentation on its second run, here having a solo violin, which is very apt for its mournful melody. But overall it loses some its impact, perhaps because it oddly has dropped out the choir. Then there is “Out of the Shattered Labyrinth”, a straightforward combination of “Out of the Labyrinth” and “Shattered”. Given that the two tracks are based on the same melodies, the combination works well enough, and it is nice to hear a real soprano singing the soaring melody on the opening former. “Heavensward” is another straightforward performance, but having the solo soprano unfiltered is again a sufficient plus for the performance, and she brings a very different quality to the track, having a purer sound at her highest notes.
Two of the performances are present as part of the video footage, but are not available as separate audio files. These are “Answers” and “Dragonsong”, both performed with the original vocalist Susan Calloway. Neither deviates from the original arrangement (although “Answers” notably loses the original’s electric guitar and rock percussion), but Calloway’s vocal for some reason is not mixed very clearly, which detracts from the performances quite a bit. For those who are interested in clearer live recordings of these arrangements, they can be found elsewhere on Distant Worlds III and IV, but even then there isn’t anything in them that the originals don’t already have better.
As for the Blu-ray format, there are some interesting features to note. The studio recordings are accompanied by footage of the concert mixed with the on-screen displays of gameplay footage. The gameplay footage is not that compellingly edited, but it serves its purpose of bringing to mind the in-game context. It also includes notes in Japanese and English from lead composer Masayoshi Soken and game director Naoki Yoshida, as well as 2.0ch and 5.0ch audio. The live portion focuses its video on the orchestra and choir, and it is serviceably filmed and edited; the video would be more compelling if there was more virtuosic soloist action, but that’s a fault on the part of the arrangements. There are options to download the studio recordings as mp3s or FLAC, while concert recordings are just mp3. This is quite a generous offering of options that is not matched by most other concert recordings, though the differences between the live and studio audio aren’t really that significant. The packaging is quite nice, with a detailed booklet of art, lyrics, and comments in both Japanese and English from Yoshida, Soken, Uematsu, Calloway, and conductor Hirofumi Kurita. It feels much more lovingly assembled, and it’s wonderful that it is geared toward both Japanese and English-speaking fans.
Eorzean Symphony: Final Fantasy XIV Orchestral Album is a solid offering of orchestral performances of music from Final Fantasy XIV. Although all of the performances and arrangements stay quite close to their originals, this is just the treatment that many of them needed. The concert’s focus on battle themes can feel a bit overwhelming at times, as there are many other interesting area and dungeon themes that would have made for creative arrangements. There are many welcome options available on the Blu-ray edition of the album, helping to make it a worthwhile package for fans. It sets a good precedent for the series, but hopefully the next concert series will be more ambitious in its song choice and arrangements.
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Posted on October 15, 2019 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on October 15, 2019.