Four years after Yasunori Mitsuda released his personal project “Sailing to the World” (which used themes he wrote for the RPG “The Seventh Seal: Lost Reminiscence”), Mitsuda teamed up with Square Enix in-house composer Masashi Hamauzu to arrange a piano solo version of the album.
Hamauzu went to work on this project long after his arrangement for the Final Fantasy X Piano Collection, and around the same time as his score for Dirge of Cerberus. Having come off of writing one of the best piano arrange albums I’ve ever heard, I wasn’t sure Hamauzu could top himself. Also, I was wary that the unique alliance of “Celtic/World” and “Impressionist Piano” might not fuse well.
Though my fears were assuaged after twice listening to this album, my overall impression of the album was that it was a slightly subpar version of the FFX Piano Collection. The style and feel of both albums are remarkably similar, and neither sound quite like Hamauzu’s first published piano work (SaGa Frontier II). I cannot say for sure if the difference was the source material, or just Hamauzu being burnt out from all his recent work, but this one was slightly less impressive than FFX.
This one had its impressive moments, of course. Hamauzu’s arrangement of “Melody-Go-Round” sounded more like his SF2 work than FFX; I really enjoyed the dynamic of light and easy tunes switching quickly (and drastically) to much more complex performance.
Speaking of performance, the pianist (Naoko Endo) deserves nothing but praise for bringing Hamauzu’s arrangement to life.
The final track, “Reincarnation,” is an excellent arrangement of what I thought to be a pretty bland piece originally. Hamauzu (with Endo’s help in the performance) knows how to play with the dynamics to make an interesting song with just one instrument.
The CD comes alongside the complete sheet music (much like how SF2 Piano was printed), and while some songs are easier than others, I’d recommend that pianists who take time to learn these songs be ready for a bit of a challenge (unless you’re a piano performance major in college or some such nonsense). Don’t let this one pass you by!