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Symphony Sorcerian :: Review by Juan2Darien

Symphony Sorcerian Album Title: Symphony Sorcerian
Record Label: King Records; Nihon Falcom
Catalog No.: 276A-7707 (CD - 1st Edition), 230T-3707 (Tape); NW10102360 (CD - Reprint)
Release Date: July 5, 1989; December 22, 1999
Purchase: Buy at eBay


I purchased Symphony Ys years ago for a price much more steep than it is currently being offered at VGM World. It has always been one of my favorite albums because of its ability to completely encapture you during each listen. There are always surprises, even after the hundredth listen. I was afraid that it may be the only album of its kind. Then I was introduced to Symphony Sorcerian. It also features arrangements by Kentaro Haneda, and should be purchased as a companion piece to Symphony Ys. As I will discuss, what the music ends up lacking in strong melodic content, Haneda makes up for with some outstanding orchestrations.


"Chapter I" dives right into the material with a lovely, touching melody provided by strings with brass and chimes providing additional colour. A quirky little section immediately follows with winds and vibraphones playing in unison. The music is very flowing, even as it reprises this material with a jazzy flair provided by the brass. Some very unusual percussion ushers in the next section with an interesting Eastern sounding theme with clarinet solos and a constant rhythm kept by tambourines, then maracas. The theme is nothing groundbreaking, but is kept interesting with some strong rhythms in the clarinet part and of course terrific orchestrations. This shifts rather abruptly into the next section that contains some interesting textures provided by low strings as powerful brass play the fun melody. The fun in this piece is because the melody seems to take itself too seriously, if that makes any sense (to use another example, it has been said that the best way for an actor to play comedy, they must play it absolutely straight, only adding to the absurdity of the performance. I hope this doesn't obfuscate my point!). The next section features winds and lush strings supported by brass in an almost Baroque-sounding counterpoint. This develops into an intimate melody with soft brass, harp, and strong strings which lead back into the beginning of the piece.

"Chapter II" begins with an interesting combination of chimes, vibraphone, glockenspiel, and harp, creating an adorable magical setting for strings to come in and carry the melody. It's light-hearted and very uplifting and constantly moving. There's always something going on and some interesting rhythms. What sound like sleigh bells come in to perfect the innocence of this movement. After this soft precious section, strong brass comes in with a deep string ostinato and punctuated by racing violins. The melody here sounds rather like one from the previous track, with loud brass and strings playing in unison, ending each phrase with some heavenly trills. The adventurous spirit is upheld with another section for a simplistic but heroic melody for brass and strings with maracas. There is a kind of disparity between these sections that doesn't quite seem right, though. Each section by itself is great to listen to, but I don't think they combine well.

Whereas on the Symphony Ys album, the third movement was a refresher track, arranged for a smaller ensemble and lush tones, there is no such break from the action on Symphony Sorcerian. "Chapter III" begins with some sinister brass enhanced by wind trills and a lovely interlude for strings. Then comes a more mysterious part with strings and percussion with harp solos. This ushers in a lovely oboe solo with vibraphone and horn interludes. The percussion here is what sets the mood. There is an aura of mystery here that is completely enhanced by the chattering, knocking, and twinkling of percussion. When punchy strings perform an authentic cadence, the melody repeats with smooth strings. The tension begins to build after that, eventually erupting into an adventuresome, triumphant fanfare for brass and bongos. This leads into a new melody for flighty strings and more maracas. The theme is very familiar sounding and is punctuated by trombone and trumpet blasts. This section surely gets the adrenaline pumping before a more heroic section is ushered in with blaring brass and timpani before reprising the soaring melody for strings. After this, a very ominous section begins for slow strings being echoed by woodwinds. Presented here are some interesting, enigmatic chord progressions before repeating the beginning material, but with some thicker orchestrations. The final chord is a bit odd since we've been through this amazing, taxing musical journey full of interesting harmonic turns and mostly minor-key melodies, and it ends on such a cheerful yet transcendent note.

We've reached the finale. "Chapter IV" begins with a sinister, shifting motif for low brass, separated by trumpet and woodwind blasts. The next section is aggressive with powerful brass and pounding timpani and string ostinato and trickling percussion. A fiendish chord brings the material to a repeat. After this, a very similar melody is heard by all sections of the orchestra in complete unison, leading us to the real meat of the track. There is a constant pulsing by low strings as violins and winds play a very rhythmic section, followed by brass fanfares and more of the vibraphone. This section stands out for its exceptionally colourful orchestrations by Haneda. The next section is surprisingly light-hearted with strings, maracas, and, in a very interesting choice of instruments, marimba. This is all supported by brass, chimes, and in between a few moments of rest, some ethnic percussion. The melody, now performed by brass and strings, alternates between long, flowing phrases and faster, more skittish ones. Then all the music drops out with the strumming of chimes and harp, lending a magical feel, introducing a new section for winds. The melody here is rather predictable, but still quite delightful. A comedic sounding section for brass follows, juxtaposing individual brass parts with rich harmonies for the whole section. The melody is repeated by strings supported by winds before a short interlude for noble brass. This section repeats and modulates before the whole orchestra joins in to create one last memorable statement of this lovely theme for the climax of the entire album.


The thing about this album is that, unlike Symphony Ys, the melodies aren't as strong. Kentaro Haneda makes up for this, however, by including some very inspired choices in orchestration and a seemingly endless arsenal of exotic percussion. Symphony Ys and Symphony Sorcerian should be seen as two companion pieces, with each one showcasing a different, exceptional trait. While I find Haneda's arrangements in Symphony Ys to be superior to the ones here, there is no mistaking that he has crafted four immense movements that inspire all manners of emotions. Obviously, the adventurous side of the music dominates, as you probably noticed as I ran out of adjectives pretty quickly, but it is not necessarily the pace that defines the music, but rather the harmonic and counterpoint choices that Kentaro Haneda uses. I do recommend this album, but with the warning that if you're looking for another Symphony Ys, you'll be disappointed because of the lack of a strong melodic core to any of the pieces. However, Kentaro Haneda has still crafted yet another wondrous musical journey that does what all good music should: it transports you, letting your mind rest while your senses are taken on a musical adventure. Sound corny? I know it does, but it is still very true.

Overall Score: 9/10