The Legend of Heroes Piano Collection
The Legend of Heroes Piano Collection
King Records (1st Edition); Nihon Falcom (2nd Edition)
December 21, 1996; February 10, 2001
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Following the release of the series’ fourth game, Falcom decided to commemorate The Legend of Heroes with its own piano arrangement album, just as they had for the Ys series several years earlier. Surprisingly, they selected the J.D.K. Band’s Tomohiko Kishimoto as the arranger and an unknown performer playing under the game-inspired pseudonym Leone Fredrik Richter as the pianist. As far as game music piano albums go, this one is one of the most elegant and refined, featuring a number of well done ballads and jazz improvisations. However, creativity is not its strongest point and many of the arrangements fall into the rut of being ‘merely typical’. Let’s take a closer look…
In the tradition of game music piano albums, the album opens with a soft and sentimental recollection of one of the series’ contemplative themes, The Legend of Heroes III‘s “Durzel’s Letter”. The arrangement format is absolutely typical, with the right-hand performing an interpretation of the melody against soft semi-arpeggiated accompaniment. Nevertheless, the refined elegant development and emotional chord choices demonstrate that it is still the work of a talented arranger. Thankfully, the centre of the arrangement deviates from the norm and offers some beautiful lounge jazz explorations. The conclusion offers an emotional recapitulation of the main melody while still being sufficiently subtle to raise expectation for subsequent performances.
Tomohiko Kishimoto is often more extravagant in his arrangement approaches. For example, he daringly treats “Grostus Castle” with muddy atonal jazz improvisations written in irregular metre. There are some even more beautiful chords in the often impressionistic interpretation of “Lost Forest” while “Sealed World” inspires some amazing imagery with its watery cascades of descending arpeggios and still earthy murmurings. Considerably less subtle is the bombastic bass-driven jam based on The Legend of Heroes‘ “Dragon”. “City of Iron” is also worth a mention, since it eventually integrates some acoustic bass and drum kit beats. The additional instruments add to the old-fashioned jazz sound, but represent a peculiar departure from the rest of the album.
Despite these deviations, a little too much of the album is vanilla. Somewhat disappointingly, the emotional introduction of “The White Witch Gerud” transitions into a very standard rendition of the main theme. While it still captures the mysticism and beauty of the original melody, it is possibly too simple to maintain interest. It’s even less appetisising to hear predictable balladic interpretations of “Opening” and “Ship” at the centre of the album. While competent and touching, they are so straightforward that they prevent the album progressing as a musically enticing experience. The conclusion “Running Red Blood” unsurprisingly continues this focus, but at least features a dramatic and romantic conclusion.
Overall, The Legend of Heroes Piano Collection is an effective production. It features faithful and emotional recollections of some of the series’ favourite melodies on the piano. The arrangement is generally highly professional and refined, whether written in the style of jazz, ballad, or impressionism, and the performances also bring out the nuances within each arrangement beautiful. However, too many of the arrangements adhere to a conservative format, resulting in the album sometimes being starved of creativity and direction. Those that do deviate are often truly outstanding, however, and among the upper echelon of game music piano arrangements. This album is lightly recommmended for piano fans despite its often vanilla formats.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.