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Joe Hisaishi - A Symphonic Celebration

12/09/2023 2023-09-12 02:00:00 JaME Author: Jasy

Joe Hisaishi - A Symphonic Celebration

A special collection of songs from legendary composer Joe Hisaishi has been released via German classical music label Deutsche Grammophon.

Album CD

A Symphonic Celebration

Hisaishi Joe


© Joe Hisaishi. All rights reserved.

© Joe Hisaishi. All rights reserved.
Since the middle of the 70s, Joe Hisaishi has been active as a composer for movies and classical music. Hisaishi is especially renowned for his collaborations with manga artist and director Hayao Miyazaki, one of the co-founders of Studio Ghibli, and with actor and director Takeshi "BEAT" Kitano. His first album on the German classical label Deutsche Grammophon, A Symphonic Celebration, was released on June 30th. For this release, Hisaishi took the opportunity to record his moving music for well-known classics from Studio Ghibli as symphonic pieces with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducted the orchestra himself as well.

A Symphonic Celebration features ten tracks in total. The tracks each have a running time between four and 12 minutes. Many of the short themes have been melted into a single larger track.

The album starts with music from the moving first work of Studio Ghibli, "Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind" (original from 1984). The track skillfully combines the pieces The Legend of the Wind, Nausicaä Requiem, The Battle between Mehve and Corvette, The Distant Days and The Bird Man into a 10-minute track which not only highlights the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's great performance but also that of two choirs, The Bach Choir and The Tifflin Choir.

This is followed by playful tunes from "Kiki's Delivery Service" (1989). The approximately nine-minute song consists of the single themes A Town with an Ocean View, Heartbroken Kiki and Mother's Broom, and features a violin solo by Stephen Morris. The album continues with the dramatic music of "Princess Mononoke" (1997). The grand seven-minute piece includes the titles The Legend of Ashitaka, The Demon God and Princess Mononoke. The songs have been melted into a captivating complete work, featuring a strong performance from not only The Bach Choir but also a moving soprano solo by Grace Davidson, who sings in Japanese.

A sort of contrast program comes out of the speakers with the six-minute track The Wind Rises (2013), which combines the songs A Journey (A Dream of Flight), Nahoko (The Encounter) and A Journey (A Kingdom of Dreams). The basic tune is sometimes calm, sometimes lively and danceable and sometimes melancholic. The mandolin is omnipresent, especially at the start of the track, and the song features some unexpected European-sounding melodies that lend it a Mediterranean character. The mandolin is played by guest musician Avi Avital.


The symphonic soundtrack continues with the no-less-enchanting music from "Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea" (2008). The entertaining pieces Deep Sea Pastures, Mother Sea, Ponyo's Sisters Lend a Hand - A Song for Mothers and the Seaand Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea are combined into a nine-minute track, again featuring The Bach Choir and soprano songstress Grace Davidson.

The music of "Castle in the Sky" (1986) is represented with the themes Doves and the Boy and Carrying You; and sounds a bit insipid due to both choirs and the calmer pace. However, there are some distinctive melancholy and dramatic moments within the track. Progressing at a more leisurely pace, "Porco Rosso" (1992) is also calm, but offers more drama. It features piano chords and wind instruments, which lend it a soft swing and bossa nova character. The four-minute piece consists of the theme Bygone Days.

For "Howl's Moving Castle" (2004), some symphonic variations from the themes Merry-Go-Round of Life and Cafe of Mind have been melted into a 12-minute work. Though it possesses a long running time, it is a very entertaining listen due to a trumpet solo by Phil Cobb and some enchanting strings.

The penultimate track, Spirited Away (2001), lasts for more than seven minutes and combines two famous themes from the score: One Summer's Day (The Name of Life) and Reprise. The solo in both themes is sung by Mai Fujisawa.

The enchanting music from "My Neighbor Tororo" (1988) brings the album to its finale. The songs The Path of the Wind, Hey Let's Go and My Neighbor Totoro have been combined into an eight-and-a-half minute long title with calm, marching and touching sounds, that also combines both choirs together in a wonderful way.

A Symphonic Celebration doesn't just give the fans an entertaining tour of the highlights of Joe Hisaishi's fantastic music. While the original themes did possess something of a symphonic approach already, the new arrangements and the masterful, seamless connection of separate themes into artistic single tracks make the album very interesting. Anyone who hasn't yet seen the classic Studio Ghibli movies highlighted on this release or heard the music featured in them will surely succumb to the uniqueness and magic these tracks possess.

Links to download and stream A Symphonic Celebration on various online music platforms are available here, and the album can also be purchased on CD and vinyl here.


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