It's a rather fascinating idea to take original compositions and orchestrate them with different instrumentations. Occasionally, it results in diminishing returns, taking away from the composer's original idea and causing confusion and disorientation when you hear certain pieces, in other cases, a different instrumentation can bring perspective and delightful discoveries as certain musical aspects are given more attention. Such is the case of Final Fantasy IV's Celtic Moon. 15 tracks were taken from the original OST and were given to a merry band of Celtic musicians with a variety of instruments, from the customary guitar, keyboards and accordion to the ethnic timber flutes and uilleann pipes.
The results are mixed. Some of the selections are a delight to hear, especially with the virtuoso reputation of guitarist Mark Kelly and talented musicianship of Máire Bhreatnach. Others cause a headache with the slightly out of tune instruments.
Celtic Moon begins with the nostalgic and now world famous "Prelude," often called "The Final Fantasy Theme." Musically, it is nothing more than a simple arpeggiated 1-2-3-5 chord played up and down octaves on a harp while the strings and flute come in to carry the melody. Celtic Moon's version is presented well, the Irish harp giving the theme a nice brusque feel with certain notes remaining on one octave to account for the lack of range.
Some of my personal favorites were "Into the Darkness," the haunting and dark melody that plays when the party enters cave areas in the game. The varieties of percussion instruments as well as the melodic and dark timbre of the fiddle accompanied with the Irish Harp plucking the chords breathe a whole new life to the piece.
The "Main Theme of Final Fantasy IV" has always been one of my favorites in the Final Fantasy series. As the signature piece of the game, it has the unenviable duty to carry the basic idea and feeling of the entire game within a set time of melodic development. Celtic Moon's version delivers both the quiet triumph as well as bitter regret that Cecil and party face throughout the game all blended nicely with the feel of the journey. Rather then just play the notes, this piece is mostly improvised after the initial statement of the melody. The ending is built up and final resolution of the theme is played with a stunning and airy grace.
My favorite piece of the Final Fantasy IV has always been "The Illusionary World" and the Celtic Moon version carries the mystery and intrigue with somber strings and quiet percussion with little improvisation and powerful resolution.
Unfortunately, most of the other pieces do not live up to the new orchestration. "Rydia," a quiet, reflective character theme is diminished by tenuous flutes and seemingly out of place female chorals with whispers of "Heeee." The "Theme of Love" sounds a little obnoxious played by slightly out of tune strings.
Overall this is a quality piece and a fine collector's item for any fan of the series or of Celtic music, but in the end I generally have a headache from the fiddles and high pitched woodwinds. It is a breeze to get from any HKT or online supplier.
Reviewed by: Daniel Space