The London Symphony Recorded a Love Letter to Final Fantasy Fans
There are certain shared cultural experiences that can connect strangers, but none quite like the 1990s JRPG. When Final Fantasy VII comes up as a common love in conversation with a newly-met acquaintance, I feel like I know this person already. We have been through the same experiences, toiling through 40 to 100 hours of fully engaged interaction, boatloads of reading, and casual math. We’ve seen the same things, fought the same battles, saved the same planet, and heard the same sounds – old adventuring pals that never met – and that’s why the London Symphony orchestra’s recent tribute to the greatest RPGs of all time is important.
Final Symphony is a concert program based on the compositions of Nobuo Uematsu, recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and subsequently released on Rdio and iTunes, where it topped the classic music charts. Arranged by Jonne Valtonen, Roger Wanamo, and Masashi Hamauzu, the concert consists of tributes to three Final Fantasy games – FF VI, VII, and X – that are given the treatment usually reserved for epic poems like One Thousand and One Nights or Ovid’s Metamorphoses. There is currently a sequel concert, Final Symphony II, set to premier in Germany this August, that will do the same justice to Final Fantasies V, VIII, IX and XIII.
After an overture, the first major piece of music is an 18 minute symphonic poem titled “Born With The Gift of Magic.” It should break the heart of anyone who has played Final Fantasy VI, starting with the notes of the iconic opera scene and sonically taking you to the end of the world while constantly returning to the motif of Terra, the main character of the story. The poem is followed by a three-movement piano concerto featuring soloist Katharina Treutler, essentially treating Final Fantasy X with the same respect. Finally, the concert finishes with a full symphony dedicated to Final Fantasy VII – three movements of dramatic and moving music evoking one of greatest adventures we’ve all taken together.
What sets Final Symphony apart from other classical music tributes to games – other than the heavenly mercy of keeping electric guitar out of the “One Winged Angel” sections – is that its goal is beyond nostalgia. Each of the three pieces of music treats its source material as a story we already know intimately rather than something to be remembered at face value with a wink. Yes, all of the tracks that you know are there, but they are kept short and only in service to the larger idea of retelling some of the greatest modern stories the way we’ve been doing for hundreds of years: by immortalizing them through the symphony.
With Final Symphony, the London Symphony Orchestra has done classical justice to three of our most cherished shared memories, accepting them as culturally important moments in art history. And they are important. We’ve all saved the world countless times on our own and, somehow paradoxically, together. Final Symphony is the sound of our shared memories.