I have always loved piano solo arrangements of game music. They have proven consistently, over time, to enrich my daily lived experience. However, quite recently, I experienced a new variation on my love of piano arrangements. Thanks to performer and streamer Kara Comparetto, I’ve discovered a love of combined keyboard instrumental arrangements: Piano, Pipe organ, and Harpsichord. This combination has come to life in Comparetto’s latest album, Chrono Trigger played by Kara Comparetto.
Ms. Comparetto has been performing and recording renditions of entire scores from popular titles, primarily RPGs, for years. As I learned in talking with her on a recent episode of Rhythm Encounter, Kara had started with specifically piano covers, but over time she added layering of organ and harpsichord to fill out the soundscape. With Chrono Trigger, she leaned in hard with this approach. Given the soundtrack’s use of piano, padded fills, and plucked pizzicato strings, the organ and harpsichord substitute so well for the latter two that this combination of keyboards is near-perfect.
Now, it’s worth noting that Kara’s arrangements are intentionally vanilla. There are no improvised solos or extended arrangements. The primary work of the arrangement is dividing the voices and parts of each song to the three different instruments. For my part, the most impressive aspect of this is the use of the organ since it’s a single instrument that can cover so many voices. This includes the foot pedals for sustained bass notes: Kara’s work in this regard is sublime.
One additional perk to enjoying this album is that it also exists in video streaming form, wherein the listener/viewer can witness Kara performing piano as a cosplayed Lucca, organ as Marle, and harpsichord as Ayla. This does add a dimension of passion and appreciation for not only the source material, but for the game itself. Check out this clip of the early game environment theme “Peaceful Days” as an example of how this all works:
By covering every single song on the Chrono Trigger‘s OST (except the unused tracks and Tsuyoshi Sekito’s added tracks for the PS1 and DS versions), it’s surprising and easy to notice the consistency of the quality. I am so accustomed to hearing great arrangements of popular tracks like “Corridors of Time” and “Secret of the Forest,” I was pleasantly surprised by arrangements for less-celebrated tracks like “Sealed Door” (one of the few Uematsu-composed tracks on Chrono Trigger) and “People Without Hope.”
I think the biggest challenge for arranging an entire game OST for this particular set of instruments is handling battle themes. In my opinion, some turn out better than others. I was definitely impressed with “Magus’ Battle” and “World Revolution,” but I felt there was an energy lacking in “Battle 1” and “Boss Battle 1.” I don’t think a faster tempo would fix the issue, either. If I could wave a magic wand? I would add drums to the mix for the battle tracks. Piano and drums have always been a favorite combination of mine, and I would adore hearing Kara working alongside a good drummer for some of the more intense, fast-paced tunes.
Kara has been releasing the videos associated with these tracks freely on her YouTube account. At the time of this review, she is nearly finished publishing video forms of all the songs on this album (most recently, I witnessed “World Revolution” being posted, and it was every bit as exciting as I thought it would be!). In audio format, Kara did a limited release of 250 CDs, one of which is in my personal collection. For everyone else, a digital download is available directly from her site’s store. After all the video posts, however, free album streaming is also likely to be listed on the popular outlets (Spotify, et al). So, be on the lookout, and if you are a lover of piano arrangements, get ready to broaden your horizons with this unique set of recordings!