Final Symphony II

Final Symphony II is a symphonic concert tour first held at the Beethovenhalle in Bonn, Germany on August 29, 2015 and performed through 2016. The concert tour features arrangements of video game music selected from the Final Fantasy series, specifically Final Fantasy V, VIII, IX, and XIII. It is divided into four acts, one per game, with the newest game, Final Fantasy XIII, first, and the oldest, V, last; all four arrangements are single-section arrangements, with the IX portion as a piano concerto. The tour is a follow up to Final Symphony, a similar tour of orchestral arrangement performances from Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X beginning in 2013 and continuing to date. The concert is produced and directed by Thomas Böcker of Merregnon Studios, with arrangements provided by Finnish composer and musician Jonne Valtonen, along with Roger Wanamo and Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu. The original works were composed by Nobuo Uematsu and Hamauzu, and an introductory piece was composed by Valtonen. The premiere concert was performed by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn under conduction from Eckehard Stier, with guest performer Mischa Cheung joining the orchestra on piano.

Following the initial performance, Final Symphony II was performed in several other venues. It was first performed in London (United Kingdom) at the Barbican Centre by the London Symphony Orchestra on September 12, 2015. The London Symphony Orchestra then travelled to Japan to perform the concert in Osaka on September 27, and twice in Yokohama on October 4, the first time that a non-Japanese orchestra played a video game music concert in Japan. The 2016 performances of the concert were a concert on April 1 at the Tampere Hall in Tampere, Finland by the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, and a June 9 concert by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra at the Stockholm Concert Hall in Stockholm, Sweden. The Tampere concert featured an extra encore piano performance in addition to the two encores performed at all concerts. 2019 performances by the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and by the Essen Philharmonic Orchestra are scheduled for July 5 and July 6 at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Netherlands and the Philharmonic Hall Essen in Essen, Germany.

A video of the Stockholm performance of the Final Fantasy VIII section was released on September 23, 2016, and unlike the original Final Symphony no album release has been announced to date. The concerts have been heavily praised, both for the quality of the performance and for the quality of the arrangements. Critics have claimed the concerts to be one of the highest quality video game music orchestral performances produced, along with the original Final Symphony, with the second tour considered to have simpler arrangement styles than the first but in turn be more approachable to audiences.

Final Symphony II
Orchestral concert tour by Merregnon Studios
Final Symphony II logo
ConductorEckehard Stier
ComposerNobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, Jonne Valtonen
ArrangersMasashi Hamauzu, Jonne Valtonen, Roger Wanamo
LocationGermany, England, Japan, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands
Start dateAugust 29, 2015
ProducerThomas Böcker (Merregnon Studios)
Merregnon Studios concert chronology

Concert

Production

Thomas Boecker
Producer Thomas Böcker in 2010

Thomas Böcker first began producing orchestral concerts of video game music in 2003 with the first Symphonic Game Music Concert in Leipzig, Germany. In 2008, he, through his production company Merregnon Studios, began a series of four concerts of video game music that used longer, more elaborate arrangements of themes from the individual pieces of music from the games. This Symphonic series of concerts stood in contrast to the more standard concerts, which played straightforward orchestral versions of individual songs. The four concerts were Symphonic Shades – Hülsbeck in Concert (2008), Symphonic Fantasies: Music from Square Enix (2009), Symphonic Legends – Music from Nintendo (2010), and Symphonic Odysseys: Tribute to Nobuo Uematsu (2011). Both Symphonic Fantasies and Symphonic Odysseys featured music from the Final Fantasy series composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Böcker has said that he considers Uematsu to be "the most famous composer of video game music and in general one of the most influential", and that Uematsu's 20020220 - Music from Final Fantasy concert in 2002 was a big influence on his own concerts.[1]

In May 2012, Böcker announced that he was working on a concert of music solely from the Final Fantasy series, to be titled Final Symphony. The idea for the concert was first proposed by Uematsu in 2009 after Symphonic Fantasies; the concert had featured Final Fantasy music as one of its four components, but unlike the other three the music had been a straightforward medley rather than a more complicated arrangement.[2] While Uematsu had asked the team to keep the arrangements similar to those in other Final Fantasy concerts, after the concert he felt that an opportunity had been missed to create something unique like the other three arrangements, especially the Secret of Mana section.[3] He encouraged Böcker to take more liberties with the source material if the opportunity arose, and hoped that another concert could be created in the future. Böcker proposed Final Symphony later that year to Uematsu, and got approval from Square Enix while coordinating a Tokyo concert of Symphonic Fantasies.[2] Final Symphony was the first concert consisting entirely of new Final Fantasy arrangements in over ten years, since 20020220 - Music from Final Fantasy.[4]

Böcker and the arrangers intended the arrangements in the concert to be "about telling the stories of the games". In order to "capture the atmosphere of the games", they limited the concert to three games from the series, so as not to spread the concert too thin. They chose Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X as the games.[2] Jonne Valtonen, Roger Wanamo, and Masashi Hamauzu created the arrangements for the concert. Valtonen and Wanamo had previously worked with Böcker on the concerts in the Symphonic series, and Böcker has stated that if they had been unavailable for the project he would not have created Final Symphony at all. Hamauzu, in addition to arranging the Final Fantasy X music, was one of the composers of the original pieces he arranged. Uematsu, who composed music for all three games, served as a consultant for the project, though he did not arrange any pieces.[2]

Jonne Valtonen Official
Arranger Jonne Valtonen in 2010

The first performance of Final Symphony was in Wuppertal, Germany at the Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal on May 11, 2013. The concert was held twice that day, performed by the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra, and was conducted by Eckehard Stier, who had previously conducted for Symphonic Fantasies in Tokyo.[5][6] The concert was very well received, and went on to be performed in five other cities around the world in 2013 and 2014.[7] An album for the concert, recorded from a studio session by the London Symphony Orchestra, was released in 2015.[8] In March 2015, Merregnon Studios announced that a new concert, Final Symphony II, was in production and would be performed in September 2015.[9]

Final Symphony II features long arrangements like the Final Symphony concerts, from different games: while the first concert was based on Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X, the second uses pieces from Final Fantasy V, VIII, IX, and XIII. Like the first concert, all of the arrangements are new, and not based on any previous work. The majority of the music was originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu, while the Final Fantasy XIII suite was originally composed by Masashi Hamauzu.[9] The arrangers from the first concert reprised their roles for the second: Valtonen created the arrangements for the Final Fantasy V section, Wanamo worked on the VIII and IX portions, and Hamauzu, with assistance from Valtonen, arranged Hamauzu's own compositions from XIII with orchestration by Valtonen.[3] Like they did for the previous concert, when Merregnon Studios first began the project, Böcker, Valtonen, and Wanamo took a few months to play through the games, watch playthrough videos, and read reviews and analyses of the games, in order to understand the structure and progression of the main themes of the music in each game.[10] An introductory fanfare, "In a Roundabout Way", was composed by Valtonen for the concert. Unlike Final Symphony, which featured three styles of orchestral performances—a piano concerto, a symphonic poem, and a three-movement symphony—all four arrangements are single-section arrangements, with the IX portion as a piano concerto.[11]

Masashi Hamauzu Jan 2012
Composer and arranger Masashi Hamauzu in 2012

The concert is arranged in reverse chronological order, with the newest game, Final Fantasy XIII, first, and the oldest, Final Fantasy V, last. Hamauzu, feeling that "there were no orchestral versions of Final Fantasy XIII tracks that [he] was really satisfied with", wanted to create a "ground-breaking" arrangement of the main themes of the game. He decided to create a dramatic arc with the songs, starting with "Prelude to Final Fantasy XIII", "Vanille's Theme", and "Nautilus" as setting the story's stage with pieces centered on the character of Vanille, followed by the battle themes of "Fang's Theme", "Blinded by Light", and "Serah's Theme" to shift into a dramatic conclusion. The arrangements of "Blinded by Light" and "Serah's Theme" are both based on previous, unfinished arrangements by Hamauzu. Valtonen claims that the bulk of the arrangement, named "Utopia in the Sky", was done by Hamauzu: "Hamauzu's jazzy and impressionistic style already gave the music its gentle softness to which I added my own small imprint."[12] The Final Fantasy IX section, "For the People of Gaia" is in the form of a piano concerto, with an orchestral introduction.[13] The concerto, like the other sections of the concert, is a single movement, though it contains elements of a traditional four movement concerto. The concerto is based on the characters' motifs from the game, beginning with music related to Vivi's theme, which inspired the idea for Wanamo. It continues through music related to Zidane, then Garnet, before ending with the battle against Kuja, interspersed with themes from the protagonist characters.[12] Wanamo was concerned about doing another piano concerto, as Merregnon had done one based on the Final Fantasy series for Symphonic Odysseys and Final Symphony, but felt that the soundtrack of Final Fantasy IX was diverse enough to support another.[13]

The third section, from Final Fantasy VIII, was also arranged by Wanamo, and is named "Mono no aware" after the Japanese term for the "awareness of impermanence".[11] The name is intended to capture a theme from the game of the conflict between childhood and adulthood, as well as the destruction of the present in favor of an uncertain future. The arrangement roughly follows the games storyline, fading away in the end like the game with uncertainty as to the conclusion of the characters' themes; Wanamo has said that the arrangement was difficult to create due to the similar emotional themes in many of the songs.[12][13] Wanamo tried to "explore pieces that shared fragments and worked well together", interleaving pieces and motifs throughout the arrangement.[11] The final arrangement of the concert, that of Final Fantasy V, is named "Library of Ancients". Valtonen based the arrangement on "Musica Machina", played in the game in the ancient base underneath the library used by the heroes. As in the game the wind has disappeared, the arrangement thereafter uses the song as a base to represent the source of the wind flowing from there through to other locations and battles from the game.[12] The concerts feature two encore pieces; "Clash on the Big Bridge" from Final Fantasy V, which is interrupted and interspersed with the series' "Chocobo Theme" in humorous counterpoint, and "Main Theme of Final Fantasy", originally from the first Final Fantasy game. The Tampere, Finland performance featured a third encore piece in the middle of the performance, a piano arrangement of "You’re Not Alone" by Wanamo.[13]

Performances

Date City Country Venue Orchestra Concerts
August 29, 2015 Bonn Germany Beethovenhalle Bonn Beethoven Orchestra Bonn 1
September 12, 2015 London England Barbican Centre London Symphony Orchestra 1
September 27, 2015 Osaka Japan Festival Hall Osaka London Symphony Orchestra 1
October 4, 2015 Yokohama Japan Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall London Symphony Orchestra 2
April 1, 2016 Tampere Finland Tampere Hall Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra 1
June 9, 2016 Stockholm Sweden Konserthuset Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra 1
July 5, 2019 Amsterdam Netherlands Concertgebouw Amsterdam Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra 1
July 6, 2019 Essen Germany Philharmonic Hall Essen Essen Philharmonic Orchestra 1
Excerpt from Stockholm performance of "Mono no aware"

The first concert announced, in March 2015, was a September 12, 2015 performance by the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in London, England, with the piano concerto performed by Slava Sidorenko.[9][11] A month later, however, Merregnon Studios announced that the premier performance would be an August 29 performance at the Beethovenhalle in Bonn, Germany by the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn. The concert featured a performance by pianist Mischa Cheung, who had previously been featured in a Final Symphony concert in Tampere, Finland.[14] After the debut performances, the London Symphony Orchestra traveled to Japan to perform the concert there three times: in Osaka on September 27, and twice in Yokohama on October 4.[15] The performances were the first time that a non-Japanese orchestra played a video game music concert in Japan.[16] The London performance sold out, while the Japanese mini-tour played to packed halls with around 7,000 attendees.[16][17] 2016 performances of the concert included a concert on April 1 at the Tampere Hall in Tampere by the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, and a June 9 concert by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra at the Stockholm Concert Hall in Stockholm, Sweden.[18] A recording of the Final Fantasy VIII section of the Stockholm performance was made available online.[19] Böcker indicated at the Tampere performance that the reason behind the extra encore piano performance of "You're Not Alone" featured in the concert, like the prior extra encore piece in the Tampere performance of the original Final Symphony, was due to it being the home country of Valtonen and Wanamo and that Merregnon would likely continue the trend in the future.[13] Selections from the concert, along with ones from Symphonic Fantasies and Final Symphony, were performed at Symphonic Memories concerts on June 9, 2018 in Stockholm,[20] March 14, 2019 in Oulu, Finland, and June 6, 2019 in St. Gallen, Switzerland.[21]

Set list

# Suite Original pieces
1. "In a Roundabout Way – Fanfare"
2. "Final Fantasy XIII – Utopia in the Sky" "Prelude to Final Fantasy XIII", "Vanille's Theme", "Nautilus", "Fang's Theme", "Blinded by Light", "Serah's Theme"[11]
3. "Final Fantasy IX – For the People of Gaia" "Memories Erased by a Storm", "Zidane's Theme", "Vivi's Theme", "Festival of the Hunt", "Mourning the Sky", "Over the Hill", "Melodies of Life", "Unrequited Love", "Kuja's Theme", "Silver Dragon", "The Final Battle"[13]
4. "Encore: You're Not Alone" (2016 Tampere performance only) "You're Not Alone"[13]
5. "Final Fantasy VIII – Mono no aware" "Liberi Fatali", "The Oath", "Waltz for the Moon", "Eyes on Me", "The Landing", "Succession of Witches", "A Sacrifice", "Don't be Afraid", "The Extreme", "Balamb Garden"[13]
6. "Final Fantasy V – Library of Ancients" "Musica Machina", "Opening Theme", "Main Theme of Final Fantasy V", "Reina's Theme", "Clash on the Big Bridge", "Slumber of Ancient Earth", "Spreading Grand Wings", "Battle 1", "Prelude to the Void ", "The Evil Lord X-Death", "Sealed Away", "Ex-Death's Castle", "Sorrows of Parting", "Ending Theme", "Victory Fanfare"[11][13]
7. "Encore: Clash on the Big Bridge" "Clash on the Big Bridge", "Chocobo Theme"[11]
8. "Encore: Main Theme of Final Fantasy" "Main Theme of Final Fantasy"[11]

Reception

The Final Symphony II concerts have received rave reviews from critics, who viewed it as a high-quality extension of the original Final Symphony concert series rather than a completely unique orchestral experience. A review of the premier concert in Bonn by Markus Roth of Video Game Music Online claimed that "the Final Symphony series is a masterclass concert series, which easily lends itself to musical discussion and interpretation of the highest standards", and that the second concert series was the equal to the original.[10] Joe Hammond of Video Game Music Online, in a review of the London performance, said that Final Symphony II "wasn't reinventing the wheel or revolutionising what the team have already done, it was triumphantly expanding on previous success". He felt that the concert series was "lighter and more accessible" than the original due to its use of fewer and less complicated types of orchestral arrangements, and that Merregnon Studios did not "try to push the boundaries" but instead tried to "expand on the success of the Final Symphony 1 programme with other games in the series", in his opinion successfully.[11] Stephen Little of Cubed Gamers, reviewing the same concert, termed it "stunning" and "a pleasure to watch, listen and be involved in", while John Son of Cubed3 said that the concert was "one of the best performances of video game music to have ever been showcased".[22][23] A review of the Tampere concert by Nikolas Broman of Original Sound Version—his fifth Final Symphony II performance attendance—agreed with Hammond, stating that while he felt the original series was better, as it had more interesting arrangement styles and a more even quality, that audiences seemed to prefer the second series as "the arrangements were safer, the melodies closer to the originals, and overall it was perhaps easier to follow". He felt that the Final Fantasy IX section was the best, with the Final Fantasy XIII section as the weakest as "good... but nothing special". Regardless, he claimed that he could only compare Final Symphony II to the original series "because it doesn't make sense to compare it to anything else. It is leaps and bounds above any other major game music concert series".[13]

See also

References

  1. ^ Tony (2011-06-01). "Interview with Thomas Böcker". JPGames.de. Archived from the original on 2013-03-15. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  2. ^ a b c d Greening, Chris (2012-05-08). "Thomas Boecker Interview: The Final Symphony". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-02-27.
  3. ^ a b Greening, Chris (2015-03-27). "Thomas Boecker Interview: Why Final Symphony Isn't the End". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on 2016-04-22. Retrieved 2015-03-27.
  4. ^ Sorlie, Audun (2012-08-24). "5 Quick Questions: Final Symphony (Thomas Böcker)". Original Sound Version. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-04-22.
  5. ^ "Final Symphony - Spielmusikkonzerte". Merregnon Studios. Archived from the original on 2016-08-01. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  6. ^ "Final Symphony - Featuring music from Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X". Merregnon Studios. Archived from the original on 2013-01-20. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  7. ^ "Milestones - Spielmusikkonzerte". Merregnon Studios. Retrieved 2015-03-23.
  8. ^ Greening, Chris (2014-12-13). "Final Symphony digital album being recorded with London Symphony". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on 2015-03-29. Retrieved 2015-03-25.
  9. ^ a b c Greening, Chris (2015-03-19). "Final Symphony II concert coming to London in September". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  10. ^ a b Roth, Markus (2015-09-04). "Final Symphony II: Bonn, August 2015". Video Game Music Online. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hammond, Joe (2015-09-24). "Final Symphony II: London, September 2015". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  12. ^ a b c d "Final Symphony II - Spielmusikkonzerte". Merregnon Studios. Archived from the original on 2016-10-21. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Broman, Nikolas (2016-05-03). "They Did It Again: Final Symphony II Concert Report". Original Sound Version. Archived from the original on 2016-05-06. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  14. ^ "Final Symphony II world premiere in Bonn". Merregnon Studios. 2015-04-29. Archived from the original on 2016-12-02. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  15. ^ Greening, Chris (2015-05-29). "London Symphony to perform Final Symphony II in Japan". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on 2015-06-29. Retrieved 2015-06-03.
  16. ^ a b Kerr, Chris (2015-06-09). "Final Symphony creator Thomas Böcker on why Osaka concert is a "triumph for all music"". Side One. Archived from the original on 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  17. ^ Temblett, Joshua (2016-02-19). "Interview: Thomas Böcker – Producer, Symphonic Fantasies". XOTV. Archived from the original on 2016-04-01. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  18. ^ Greening, Chris (2015-10-10). "Final Symphonies coming to New Zealand, Netherlands, Finland". Video Game Music Online. Archived from the original on 2015-11-22. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  19. ^ "Video recording of Final Fantasy VIII performance online". Merregnon Studios. 2016-09-23. Archived from the original on 2016-12-02. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  20. ^ "Symphonic Memories brings Japanese RPG magic to Stockholm". Merregnon Studios. 2018-02-27. Archived from the original on 2018-04-26. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  21. ^ "Tickets". Merregnon Studios. Archived from the original on 2019-02-05. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  22. ^ Little, Stephen (2015-09-25). "Review: Final Symphony II". Cubed Gamers. Archived from the original on 2016-11-30. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  23. ^ Son, John (2015-09-17). "Event Review | Final Symphony II (MusiCube)". Cubed3. Archived from the original on 2016-04-28. Retrieved 2016-12-02.

External links

Final Fantasy concerts

Final Fantasy is a media franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi and owned by Square Enix that includes video games, motion pictures, and other merchandise. The original Final Fantasy video game, published in 1987, is a role-playing video game developed by Square, spawning a video game series that became the central focus of the franchise. The primary composer of music for the main series was Nobuo Uematsu, who single-handedly composed the soundtracks for the first nine games, as well as directing the production of many of the soundtrack albums. Music for the spin-off series and main series games beginning with Final Fantasy X was created by a variety of composers including Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, Hitoshi Sakimoto, and Kumi Tanioka, as well as many others.

Music from the franchise has been performed numerous times in concert tours and other live performances such as the Orchestral Game Music Concerts, Symphonic Game Music Concerts, and the Play! A Video Game Symphony and the Video Games Live concert tours, as well as forming the basis of specific Final Fantasy concerts and concert series. The first such concert was the 20020220 Music from Final Fantasy concert on February 20, 2002, which sparked a six-concert tour in Japan entitled Tour de Japon: Music from Final Fantasy beginning in March 2004. A North American concert series titled Dear Friends -Music From Final Fantasy- followed from 2004–2005, and after its conclusion was followed with the More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy concert on May 16, 2005. Voices - Music from Final Fantasy was a concert held in Yokohama, Japan on February 18, 2006 focusing on vocal pieces from the series.

The longest running Final Fantasy concert series so far is the Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy concert tour, which began in 2007 and continues to date around the world. The latest officially licensed concert is Final Symphony, featuring music from Final Fantasy VI, VII and X. All of these concerts have played only music from the main Final Fantasy series, and do not include music from the multiple spin-off series with the exception of Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, the 2005 computer animated film sequel to Final Fantasy VII.

Final Symphony

Final Symphony is a symphonic concert tour first held at the Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal in Wuppertal (Germany) on May 11, 2013. To date, it has seen 22 performances worldwide. The concert tour features arrangements of video game music selected from the Final Fantasy series, specifically Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X. It is divided into three acts: a symphonic poem for VI, a piano concerto for X, and a symphony for VII. The concert is produced and directed by Thomas Böcker, with arrangements provided by Finnish composer and musician Jonne Valtonen, along with Roger Wanamo and Final Fantasy X composer Masashi Hamauzu with consultation from Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. The original works were composed by Uematsu and Hamauzu, and an introductory piece was composed by Valtonen. The premiere concert was performed by the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra under conduction from Eckehard Stier, with guest performer Benyamin Nuss joining the orchestra on piano.

Following the initial performance, Final Symphony was performed in several other venues. It was first performed in London (United Kingdom) at the Barbican Centre by the London Symphony Orchestra on May 30, 2013. Between 2014 and 2018, additional concerts took place in Tokyo (Japan), Aarhus (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden), Tampere (Finland), Amsterdam (Netherlands), San Diego (United States), Baltimore (United States), San Francisco (United States), Auckland (New Zealand), Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China), Hamburg (Germany), Berlin (Germany), Munich (Germany), Vienna (Austria) and Melbourne (Australia), with each performance location handled by a different orchestra.

A video of the Stockholm performance of the Final Fantasy VI Symphonic Poem was released on October 11, 2014, and a full album recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios was released on February 23, 2015 by Merregnon Studios. The album, along with the concerts themselves, were heavily praised, both for the quality of the performance and for the quality of the arrangements, which overlaid themes from multiple pieces rather than relying on a more traditional medley. The concert series was followed by Final Symphony II, a similar concert tour by Merregnon Studios which began in 2015 with music from Final Fantasy V, VII, IX, and XIII.

Masashi Hamauzu

Masashi Hamauzu (浜渦 正志, Hamauzu Masashi, born September 20, 1971) is a Japanese composer, arranger, pianist, and lyricist. Hamauzu, who was employed at Square Enix from 1996 to 2010, was best known during that time for his work on the Final Fantasy and SaGa video game series. Born into a musical family in Germany, Hamauzu was raised in Japan. He became interested in music while in kindergarten, and took piano lessons from his parents.

Hamauzu was hired by Square as a trainee, and his debut as a solo composer came the following year when he scored Chocobo no Fushigina Dungeon. He has collaborated with his friend and fellow composer Junya Nakano on several games, and has worked closely with synthesizer programmer Ryo Yamazaki on most titles since SaGa Frontier 2.

After Nobuo Uematsu left Square Enix in 2004, Hamauzu took over as the leading composer of the company's music team. He was the sole composer for Final Fantasy XIII. He has also become a renowned piano arranger, and has arranged a number of albums, including Yasunori Mitsuda's Sailing to the World piano score in 2006. His music incorporates various styles, although he mostly uses classical and ambient music in his pieces. In 2010, Hamauzu left Square Enix to start his own studio, MONOMUSIK.

Music of Final Fantasy XV

The music for the video game Final Fantasy XV, developed and published by Square Enix as the fifteenth mainline entry in the Final Fantasy series, was composed primarily by Yoko Shimomura. Having previously worked on the Kingdom Hearts series, among various other titles, Final Fantasy XV was her first project for the series. Shimomura was brought on board the project in 2006, when it was a spin-off title called Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and stayed in her role during the game's ten-year development cycle. Her music, based around themes of "friendship" and "filial bonds", incorporates multiple musical genres, such as orchestral, bossa nova, and American blues. Several tracks, including the main theme "Somnus", feature Latin lyrics written by the game's original director Tetsuya Nomura.

Final Fantasy XV was expanded into a multimedia project dubbed the "Final Fantasy XV Universe", for which other composers were hired; John R. Graham composed the music for the film Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, with additional tunes from Shimomura. Yasuhisa Inoue and Susumi Akizuki of Righttrack wrote the music for the original net animation Brotherhood, while a team from the music studio Unique Note, who also worked on the base game, handled the mobile spin-off title Justice Monsters V. English indie rock band Florence and the Machine collaborated on three songs for the game, including a cover of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me", which acted as the official theme song. Later contributors to the soundtrack, via downloadable content packs, were Keiichi Okabe, Naoshi Mizuta, Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu and Tadayoshi Makino.

Multiple albums have been released containing music from Final Fantasy XV and its spin-off media. Final Fantasy XV Original Soundtrack released in December 2016 in multiple versions, including a four-disc CD release, a Blu-ray release with additional tracks, and a special edition. The standard four-disc release was published internationally in 2017 by Sony Classical Records. The score for Kingsglaive released in September 2016 as a two-disc CD. Other releases include a digital album for Justice Monsters V in September 2016, and limited digital albums for both Kingsglaive and Platinum Demo, a commercial demo acting as a prequel to Final Fantasy XV. The songs from Florence and the Machine were released in August 2016 as digital singles under the banner title "Songs from Final Fantasy XV". Reception of the albums was generally positive, with the main soundtrack album and Welch's tracks reaching high positions on music charts.

Symphonic Fantasies

Symphonic Fantasies: Music from Square Enix was an award-winning symphonic tribute concert held in Cologne, Germany on September 12, 2009 at the Cologne Philharmonic Hall featuring video game music from Japanese game developer Square Enix. The concert featured symphonic movements based on the Kingdom Hearts series, Secret of Mana, the Chrono series, and the Final Fantasy series. The concert was produced and directed by Thomas Böcker, with arrangements provided by Finnish composer and musician Jonne Valtonen with assistance by Roger Wanamo. Due to overwhelming demand, a second concert was necessitated at the König-Pilsener-Arena in Oberhausen, on September 11, 2009. The concert was performed by the WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne and the WDR Radio Choir Cologne under conduction from Arnie Roth, with guest performers Rony Barrak and Benyamin Nuss joining the orchestra. Symphonic Fantasies was broadcast over radio on the WDR4 station and streamed live video online.

In 2012, four new performances were scheduled, taking stage in Tokyo, Stockholm, and a reprise in Cologne. These performances featured slightly modified versions of the original arrangements, and like the original concerts, were sold out. Another performance was held in London in October 2016 by the London Symphony Orchestra. The original concert and the Tokyo concert both sparked the release of an album. These albums, along with the concerts themselves, were heavily praised, both for the quality of the performance and for the quality of Valtonen's arrangements, which overlaid themes from multiple pieces rather than relying on a traditional medley.

Thomas Böcker

Thomas Böcker (born October 8, 1977) is an award-winning German entrepreneur. He is most known for his Game Concerts series, initiated in 2003 as Symphonic Game Music Concerts, historical for being the longest running and the first of their kind outside Japan. He produced the first live performance of video game music by the London Symphony Orchestra, and was presented with the national Cultural and Creative Pilots Award by the German Federal Government, which recognises outstanding entrepreneurs within Germany’s cultural and creative industries.

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