|Composed By: Masashi Hamauzu, Jeremy Soule, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Sam Hulick, Yoko Shimomura, Noriko Matsueda, Takahito Eguchi, Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, Solar Fields, Harry Gregson-Williams, Norihiko Hibino, Josh Barron
01 - Fang’s Theme for String Orchestra (FINAL FANTASY XIII)
02 - Of Steel and Snow: Two Nordic Folk Songs for Piano and String Quintet (ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM)
03 - Trisection for String Orchestra (FINAL FANTASY TACTICS)
04 - Eruyt Village for Piano and String Quintet (FINAL FANTASY XII)
05 - I Was Lost Without You for Piano and String Septet (MASS EFFECT 3)
06 - And Thus Fate Becomes Cruel for String Orchestra (HEROES OF MANA)
07 - Eternity ~ Memories of Light and Waves for Piano, Clarinet, and String Orchestra (FINAL FANTASY X-2)
08 - Honor, Sacrifice, Glory: Variations on Themes from Halo 2 for String Orchestra (HALO 2)
09 - Still Alive for String Orchestra (MIRROR’S EDGE)
10 - Tactical Espionage Suite for String Orchestra (METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY)
11 - The Forest of Awakening for Piano and String Orchestra
12 - Sulyya Springs for Piano and Viola (FINAL FANTASY XIII)
Whenever I'm introduced to a new group that arranges/performs video game music, I generously give my ears to them so they may slather it with their honey-filled notes. I listen, I enjoy, and I applaud. Within a short time, I go about researching the group, checking who the performers are and what they play. When I did so for this album, I was enthralled that what I had just listened to was not performed by a large string ensemble at all, but rather a group of just three string players! The three musicians who deliver this aurally filling experience are Andrew Steffen, Andrew Stern, and John Schultz; And with their powers combined, they are The ETHEReal String Orchestra!
Whether through the alignment of all the planets or simply a partnership with arranger-composer Josh Barron (Kingdom Hearts Album), The ETHEReal String Orchestra presents us with a very lively and pleasurable album. They — with the addition of three guest pianists — take Barron's impressive arrangements and breathe life into them. Whether you're one to enjoy the sweet, mysterious atmosphere of "Eruyt Village" or one for something more vivacious like "Trisection," there are various arrangements that will make you thirst for more! Also, on top of these arrangements already being a treat in themselves, they are molded with additional material that Barron has taken great care in putting together.
I would be remiss if I failed to note that mixed in with these arrangements is one track composed by the arranger-composer himself, "The Forest of Awakening." I greatly enjoyed the overall shape of the piece, as well as the dialog between the strings and the piano. I would have liked this piece to be longer; however, I am satisfied with Barron's compositional offering. Kudos to Kevin Won for his piano performance in this piece!
Beyond Barron's brilliant arrangements and additional material, I'm enthralled by the knowledge that only a small handful of musicians created this entrancing and lively album! I'd like to see what Barron and The ETHEReal String Orchestra have to offer in the future, whether with other people or continuing their venture together. Glasses raised, dear readers.
Reviewed by: Marcos Gaspar