Note: Shinko Ogata (from FFVIII Piano Collections) performs the songs arranged by Matsueda and Eguchi. The other arrangers performed their own arrangements, which is a first in FF Piano history. Note also the slight change in title from “Piano Collections” (IV-X all use this title) to “Piano Collection”…Just a little idiosyncracy.
I have listened to every Final Fantasy Piano Collection over a dozen times, and perhaps I am speaking with the bias of novelty (that is, that this soundtrack is newest to me): but I can say without a doubt that this Piano Collections, among other FF Piano Collections, contains the most diverse array of music, as well as some very simple songs on the one hand and very VERY complex songs on the other hand. Classical, neo-classical, jazz, modern ballads…this 12-track album contains a lot of pieces with which to work.
Tracks one and four, which come from the International + Last Mission OST (explaining the Piano Collection’s seemingly late arrival), are both incredible pieces. Seal of the Wind receives a most minimal arrangement, sounding almost note-for-note like the original work for the game. Creature Creation also stays in line, but contains some complex time signatures and a piano solo that would wow anybody listening.
I was pleased when I first got word of the tracklist to find that an arrangement of Zanarkand Ruins would be on this CD: however, the arrangement is sweet and simple; I had hoped for more expansion on this theme. On the other hand, the last track, which I expected to be very similar to the original track, received quite a hefty load of arrangement, improvisation, and general “artistic license”, changing the song so much that by the end of the piece the meter has switched from the traditional 6/8 to a solid 4/4. I was not fond of this change at first, but it has grown on me, and now this track is one of my favorites.
Yuna’s Ballad and 1000 Words both get the standard “pop to piano” treatment: these pieces are not difficult to perform (I myself can play them with the help of Yamaha’s sheet music), but they are still beautiful in their own right. The melodies stand strong through any musical medium, and I believe the piano collection helps demonstrate this fact.
While each song on the album is great, I would have to say that my favorites are two tracks that fit hand in hand: “Nightmare in the Den”, followed by “Demise”. Track 8, this “Nightmare”, takes place during a key sequence in the game of Final Fantasy X-2, and I prayed that accompanying the Piano Collection would be a take on this piece: voila, we are given a note-for-note flawless performance of the piece. At only one minute and six seconds, this piece shines as a remarkable dark neo-classic piece that sounds much like Liszt or perhaps Chopin.
The next piece, Demise, is the only track arranged and performed by Febian Reza Pane, a pianist who certainly has a handle on some vey sharp and contrasting techniques: a complex time signature (9/8) with a number of accented off-beats, a softness in the beginning that is difficult to imitate, and a booming loudness and grandeur by the end of the piece that makes any piano afficianado do an aural double-take: you cannot listen to this piece just once. It is simply that good.
This piano collection is different from any I’ve ever heard: Final Fantasy-related or not. I have spent more time listening to this CD than any other piano collection. However, I do not dare call it “the best”; VIII and X were also spectacular in their own right, and VII had a number of higher-skill-level arrangements. What I mean to say in this review is that, compared to the Original Soundtrack, X-2 Piano Collection shines as a light in the darkness. I was doubtful that Matsueda and Eguchi could create music so easily transportable to one instrument, but here I stand corrected; I am extremely pleased with this CD, and have no intention of removing it from my ever-changing collection.