The Legend of Zelda Concert 2018
The Legend of Zelda Concert 2018
|Record Label: NIPPON COLUMBIA|
|Catalog No.: COCX-40771~2|
|Release Date: March 6, 2019|
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Legend of Zelda fans will never want for outstanding orchestral covers of the franchise’s greatest hits – not if the fans and their vast library of cinematic tributes have anything to say about it. Still, who better to put their stamp on Zelda’s symphonic scene than Nintendo itself? While the company may have less grand conceptual ambitions than the fans, its Symphony of the Goddesses tours and albums have nevertheless captivated Zelda fans with comprehensive medleys and clever fan service.
The Legend of Zelda Concert 2018 marks the second stand-alone Symphony of the Goddesses release (not counting the bonus disc bundled with 2011’s Skyward Sword). This latest album comes at a strange time compared to its predecessors, celebrating neither an anniversary for the series nor a new entry therein. It does, however, update the official repertoire with entries from 2017’s Breath of the Wild (you might have heard of it), alongside tweaks and additions to existing arrangements. Are these updates substantial enough to merit a return to the Hyrulean concert hall?
As with the 30th Anniversary Concert album, The Legend of Zelda Concert 2018 features emotive performances by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Concert 2018 largely features the same set of arrangers as well – and, unfortunately, a few of the same arrangements. “Princess Zelda’s Theme”, pristine and pretty as ever, sounds almost identical to the 30th Anniversary release, except for the enhanced warmth of the newer recording. Likewise, Ryo Nagamatsu’s sole contribution to either album – a medley compiling the best of his A Link Between Worlds and Tri Force Heroes soundtracks – plays out practically the same here as it did before.
Elsewhere, reprised arrangements tend to feel fresher, if only just. For example, Tomomichi Takeoka’s arrangement of the “‘Main Theme’ from Breath of the Wild” (first featured on the Breath of the Wild: Sound Selection disc) now comes equipped with the original track’s pre-climax pause. Likewise, Kosuke Yamashita’s “Ocarina Melody Suite” still covers the same nineteen fragmentary melodies from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask – but given their brevity, listeners will appreciate the absence of the formal introductions that broke the suite’s pace in the 30th Anniversary recording. These differences may be slight, but they are appreciable nonetheless.
Other returning favorites feature more noteworthy amendments. Yamashita-san’s “The Legend of Zelda ~Harp Solo~” starts out as a retread of his “Great Fairy’s Fountain” arrangement, but soon shifts gears and presents beautiful new takes on “Sheik’s Theme” and “Ballad of the Goddess”. Similarly, while Yamashita-san hasn’t tweaked “The Legend of Zelda Main Theme” much (beyond a less brass-centric mix), the Concert 2018 version does boast an extended beginning with a magical blend of ocarina, accordion and harp.
Yamashita-san’s arrangements have tended to dominate Legend of Zelda concert albums thus far. Yet this time around, listeners have Natsumi Kameoka to thank for most of the new arrangements on offer, including a sweeping medley in homage to Link’s Awakening. Fans anticipating the GameBoy classic’s HD remake later this year will appreciate Kameoka-san’s rousing takes on the “Overworld” theme and “Tal Tal Heights”, as well as her frantic reimagining of the final boss theme. Curiously, “Ballad of the Windfish” – a favorite among fans – receives less attention than a Link’s Awakening fan might expect; but Kameoka-san’s lavish, Disney-esque renditions of “Mabe Village” and “Inside the Houses” more than make up for any potential letdown.
Kameoka-san’s new boss battle medley also makes for a notable treat, covering a fresh selection of themes for iconic Zelda bosses, from the floral monstrosity Diababa to the menacing demon lord Ghirahim. Minor touches, such as the curt piano dissonance in the Wind Waker’s “Mini-Boss” theme, demonstrate that Kameoka-san understands these themes both in isolation as well as in the context of the games from whence they came. Evidently, Kameoka-san also understands how to end a boss theme medley on a high-note, sending hers off to the tune of Koloktos’ boss music from Skyward Sword.
Yamashita-san and Kameoka-san each had a hand in album’s main attraction: brand new arrangements in tribute to Breath of the Wild. Barring occasional instrumentation swaps (sorry, uilleann pipe lovers), these arrangements faithfully recreate their source material, meshing some of Breath of the Wild’s best tracks together in satisfying ways. Yamashita-san’s “The Land of Hyrule” successfully revives various town themes, from the verdant “Hateno Village” to the accumulative “Tarrey Town”, and interweaves the daylight horseback riding theme to conjure the impression of travel. Further on, Yamashita-san pays his respects to Breath of the Wild’s four fallen champions, merging their respective themes with Champion’s Ballad DLC tracks into an especially touching medley.
To some extent, Breath of the Wild’s soundtrack already laid the groundwork for these new arrangements, with its heightened emphasis on acoustic performances and cinematic orchestration. Sure, Kameoka-san’s “Kass Medley” succeeds at breaking the mold, complementing its accordion centerpiece with flickering violin, brass, castanets, and trickling piano; but for the most part, these arrangements are played by the book. So when it comes to, say, Breath of the Wild’s release date reveal trailer music, there’s only so much that a live orchestral performance can add to a track that was already orchestrally realized from the outset.
All the same, Kameoka-san’s “Final Battle” medley makes a fine case for revisiting Breath of the Wild’s music in concert, recounting the game’s climactic sequence from the infiltration of Hyrule Castle to the final showdown with Calamity Ganon. Just wait until the medley arrives at the “Dark Beast Ganon Battle” theme: the restless piano and crying flute may come off weaker in the mix than on the original soundtrack, but the performance is no less virtuosic or riveting.
Yet strangely enough, even that moments pales in comparison to Yamashita-san’s arrangement of Ocarina of Time’s “Horse Race” theme. Why? Who knows: the track always charmed in its original form but never felt essential compared to the rest of Ocarina of Time’s musical lineup. Yet here it is, elevated to new levels of rambunctiousness, and it’s hard not to share in the live audience’s enthusiasm once they begin clapping along in time.
On paper, The Legend of Zelda Concert 2018 comes across as a tough sell. After all, the series celebrated its 30th anniversary with a comparable concert album just two years prior. Yet Concert 2018 does just enough to distinguish itself from previous releases, opting to polish up past arrangements in most cases rather than recycling them verbatim. Not everything on offer is strictly new, but Concert 2018’s original offerings are enticing enough to offset the album’s deja-vu inducing arrangements. Even in the wake of the 30th Anniversary release, The Legend of Zelda Concert 2018 will make the listen worth the time.
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Posted on May 17, 2019 by Reilly Farrell. Last modified on May 17, 2019.