The String Concert of Haruhi Suzumiya – Review

Haruhi Gensou CD Cover

Album Title: The String Concert of Haruhi Suzumiya or Suzumiya Haruhi no Gensou
Anime Title: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Artist: Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Shiro Hamaguchi, Dimitri Shostakovich,
Minori Chihara, Aya Hirano
Catalog Number: LACA-5920
Release Type: Arranged Album
Release Date: June 24, 2009
Purchase at: CDJapan


Tracklist

Show »

Track Title Artist Time
1. Koi no Mikuru Densetsu Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
5:50
2. Itsumo no Fuukei ~
Gekiretsu de Kareinaru Hibi
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
3:19
3. Saikyou Pare Parade Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
5:38
4. Higeki no Heroine ~ Hi Nichijou he no Sasoi ~
Beach Vacation
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
5:58
5. Kouchou Kouchou ~ Mikuru no Kokoro ~
Chiisakute mo Shiawase ~ Oi Oi ~
Comical Hustle
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
7:17
6. Bouken Desho Desho? Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi, Aya Hirano
4:58
7. Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60,
“Leningrad” First Movement
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi, Dmitri Shostokovich
7:23
8. Sunao na Kimochi ~ Aru Ame no Hi ~
Haruhi no Omoi
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
6:23
9. The Mysterious ~ Asakura Ryouko no Shinjitsu
~ Fuyu no Ashioto
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi,
4:40
10. Lost my music Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi, Aya Hirano
5:02
11. SOS Dan Shidou! ~ Nanika ga Okashi Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
3:18
12. Yuki, Muon, Madobe Nite. Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi, Minori Chihara
5:05
13. Nodoka na Shoutengai ~ Yuki Toujou ~
Pinchppoi! ~ Mikuru Henshin! Soshite Sentou! ~ Daidanen
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
5:06
14. Hare Hare Yukai Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi
3:46
15. God knows… Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Shiro Hamaguchi, Aya Hirano
4:56

Review: Suzumiya Haruhi no Gensou’s release was met with some skepticism from two fronts. The first had to do with TAMUSIC’s colossal failure in The Recital of Haruhi Suzumiya, which raised the question as to whether an orchestrated Haruhi album could actually be done competently. The second related to the fact that much of Haruhi’s BGM wasn’t exactly memorable because after looking through this album’s track list, I couldn’t say I was able to recall any of the melodies beyond Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony and the songs like “God Knows,” “Bouken Desho Desho?,” and “Hare Hare Yukai.” The latter issue isn’t as much a problem since context, while helpful, isn’t a necessary component in making this album enjoyable and thankfully, the former concern doesn’t raise its ugly head when you have Shiro Hamaguchi doing the orchestral arrangements. With his solid track record in arranging Final Fantasy music to piano and orchestra, there is reason to hope that he can work his magic with Haruhi.

Right off the bat, Hamaguchi’s arrangement of “Koi no Mikuru Densetsu” is impressive. At first glance, this off-tune variant of a cheesy magical girl OP doesn’t seem to be a particularly viable candidate for serious orchestration, but the arrangement manages to prove these initial thoughts wrong. I enjoyed how it provides a different spin on the original by upping the tempo, giving the track a sense of urgency that, when combined with the orchestra, yields a piece that is absolutely epic. While it focuses more on the serious side, a lighthearted moment pops up in the “Come on let’s dance, baby” segment, which helps keeps the listener engaged all the way up to its glorious conclusion.

Koi no Mikuru Densetsu

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By starting out so commendably, Hamaguchi sets a high bar for his arrangements and the succession of pieces manages to meet these lofty expectations. As we go further into the album, we’ll find that most of the pieces are the result of combining various themes from Haruhi’s BGM into a cohesive medley. Even though my memory of Haruhi’s music is spotty at best, I still found most of the medleys to be enjoyable since the transitions from one theme to another are handled quite well.

Take, for example, “Kouchou Kouchou ~ Mikuru no Kokoro ~ Chiisaku demo Shiawase ~ Oioi ~ Comical Hustle,” which explores many aspects of day to day life. The bustling, energetic theme meanders about before settling into the next two sections which offer a mellow, heartfelt atmosphere, leaving the listener feeling calm and at ease. Around the 4:40 mark, the orchestra builds up bombastically towards a sillier air as it depicts Haruhi while she’s executing one of her hare-brained schemes. Although it starts off softly, the mischief grows in scope and excitement before going into the final section where it draws upon its storehouse of energy to bring about a rousing finish. By capturing both the exciting and relaxing moments of day to day life so well, this medley succeeds in being enjoyable and engaging.

Kouchou Kouchou ~ Mikuru no Kokoro ~ Chiisaku demo Shiawase ~ Oioi ~ Comical Hustle

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Other tracks to note include “Sunao na Kimochi ~ Aru Ame no Hi ~ Haruhi no Omoi” which relies on the piano to touch upon a wide range of emotions, from contentment, to introspection, to hope, as the piece reassures the listener that the future has never looked brighter. And of course, the arrangement of “Hare Hare Yukai” deserves a mention for taking a different approach from the original. The sense of joy and excitement doesn’t appear until you reach the middle section, and even then, the fun is muted compared to the original as the piece aims towards an epic experience rather than a fun one. Although I do enjoy this interpretation of “Hare Hare Yukai,” my preference favors the original which captured that sense of happiness and joy far better than the arrangement.

Sunao na Kimochi ~ Aru Ame no Hi ~ Haruhi no Omoi

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So while these arrangements are good, the same can’t be said for Aya Hirano’s songs. It’s no secret that her live performances are pretty bad and I think that the nicest thing that can be said here is that she doesn’t ruin the overall enjoyment of this album. Nevertheless, it’s kind of painful whenever she sings off tune or employs a grating vibrato which makes her performances impossible to ignore. Of all her songs, “God knows…” is her worst song on this album since, in addition to the previously mentioned problems, her performance during the chorus part sounds awkward since she seems to be trying so hard that she forgets to breathe, resulting in a windy delivery that lacks impact. The other performances aren’t this awful, but they are a step down in terms of quality, even if the orchestration is decent all around.

God knows…

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On the plus side, Minori Chihara manages to put forth an enjoyable performance in “Yuki, Muon, Madobe nite.” where she switches between her Yuki voice and a more emotionally-charged voice, but overall, it’s a passable job. There are a few points where I think she struggles a bit, especially when she has to sing those lower-pitched notes at a fast tempo, but even with that considered, I wasn’t displeased with how the song turned out.

Yuki, Muon, Madobe nite.

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Finally, the inclusion of the first movement of Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony, while fitting in the way it employs a steady, militaristic melody to complement the scenes in the computer game episode, fails to be engaging because of its repetitive nature. Yes, I am aware that this is the point of a movement that uses the same form that Ravel uses in his Bolero, but when the option exists to choose a more compelling piece like the 4th movement of Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony, the “Pathetique” should take precedence over the “Leningrad.” That said, the “Leningrad” isn’t bad and it offers a nice introduction for people not familiar with Shostakovich (though his 5th Symphony is still my favorite).

Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60, “Leningrad” First Movement

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From looking at the music here, Hamaguchi’s efforts yield a solid album through and through. There are a few issues that mostly crop up as a result of Aya Hirano’s inability to sing, but it’s not so bad as to ruin one’s listening experience. I wouldn’t go as far as to rate it higher than the ARIA piano albums, but it’s still really good and worth a listen as its excellent arrangements work well in capturing our favorite moments in Haruhi back when the show wasn’t looping endlessly.

Rating: Excellent

zzeroparticle

Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

16 thoughts on “The String Concert of Haruhi Suzumiya – Review

  • July 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm
    Permalink

    Hmm, just took a peek at the God Knows version here, has a nice touch to it. GET!

    Reply
  • July 18, 2009 at 10:40 pm
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    I’m tempted to get this album – always love orchestra music. (played the piano for 10~ or so years ^^)

    However, I agree with you on God knows… – something doesn’t feel right.

    Reply
  • July 18, 2009 at 11:00 pm
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    I hadn’t heard the Recital of… but I was pleasantly surprised by this string concert. I didn’t think the BGM and singles (especially) would convert well in orchestral arrangements, but I gotta give Hamaguchi credit, because he did a great job putting everything together.

    Reply
  • July 18, 2009 at 11:25 pm
    Permalink

    I would have loved to hear God Knows… and the other Hirano song with an actual professional opera singer or the like. I think her biggest problem (besides being offkey and sounding like she’s struggling to breathe) is that she just count out sing the orchestra. The pieces are loud and boisterous and she gets drowned out by them during most parts of the song. As opposed to Minorin who gets louder (for the most part) when her song gets louder. Aya just can’t do that.

    I wonder about the choice of having the vocalists sing in the same auditorium that the orchestra was recording in. It might have sounded better to have recorded the vocals in the studio. I doubt either girl is used to singing with a full orchestra either.

    As for the rest of the album; no complaints here, an excellent arrangement. Really surprising to see good orchestral arrangement of anime music.

    Reply
  • July 19, 2009 at 1:36 am
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    I actually enjoyed it, though the remade versions of Aya’s songs left something to be desired

    Reply
  • July 19, 2009 at 9:38 am
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    @Seinime
    I’d have to disagree if you’re referring to Aya’s voice. The orchestration is pretty spiffy though.

    @Reltair
    It’s a bit on the expensive side, but I think it’s worth it after giving it multiple listens. Haruhi’s music being arranged in this fashion is surprisingly good when done right.

    @RP
    You’d be well-served not to listen to Recital. I tried giving it another look and couldn’t stand how awful it was.

    @taka
    That’s a good point you made about Aya in that there were times where she can’t out-sing the orchestra and becomes completely dwarfed by it. If the other songs were to be sung by an opera singer, one can hope it’s as good as when they used one to sing Final Fantasy VI’s opera portion when that got orchestrated.

    Wish orchestral arrangements in the anime community were more commonplace though. That’s an area in which I’d like to see more development.

    @Onibaku
    Glad you liked it! Solid arrangements all-around.

    Reply
  • July 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm
    Permalink

    Enjoyed your thoughtful review. Adapting music that is not classical to begin with to a symphonic form has always been a dicey proposition. Arrangement is everything and, for the most part, the right choices were made in this adaptation. However, the discussion of Hirano’s poor performance has left out the central problem concerning the vocal selections. I don’t blame her so much as I do the idea of having anyone sing at all. The concert should have been entirely orchestral. I suppose having Hirano and Chihara there added to the excitement of the event and gave the musical flow some variety, but all of the vocal tracks feel forced. The pop singing is grafted unnaturally onto a classical backdrop. I would have enjoyed an instrumental version of “Bouken Desho Desho?” Aside from this artistic mistake, I think this recording is a lot of fun.

    Reply
  • July 19, 2009 at 11:23 pm
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    @Steve D.
    My thought is that it’s not a bad idea to use vocals just to add a bit of variety (though I agree that an orchestra-only version would have been fantastic). The problem, as you said, is that Hirano and Chihara just don’t cut it quite as well with that orchestral backdrop. While I’ve seen it done well through the various Final Fantasy concerts that have been floating around, the vocal aspects for Haruhi just weren’t on the caliber of the Final Fantasy stuff.

    Otherwise, agreed with everything else. I can’t seem to stop marveling at how well most of the other pieces turned out.

    Reply
  • July 22, 2009 at 7:04 am
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    Reply
  • July 28, 2009 at 6:49 am
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    I also gave the album a try, though my expectations were somewhat low after I heard that Hirano had performed as vocal soloist for the orchestrations of her songs (As much as I generally hate her and her voice, I can’t say I felt the same about her songs from Haruhi. p_p). When I began listening to Bouken Desho Desho introduction, I was hoping that I had been wrong to worry over something so trivial.
    Of course, I had been right.
    Though I admit to not enjoying many choral works outside of Mahler’s symphonies and Beethoven’s 9th, the mix of contemporary singing and the classical orchestra is even moreso a formula I haven’t seen good results from outside of select symphonic rock arrangements. Hirano here makes it even worse with her overambition. Apparently she realises that she can’t sing, and attempts to compensate by trying even harder… making it worse. There’s only so much recording editors can do, and when mixed with symphony hall acoustics, it’s even more apparent. Though as a counter, Chihara’s more conservative performance was easier on the ears and much more enjoyable. I guess simplicity as a requisite of harmony has become a central rule of contemporary music. =3=
    Of course, the majority of the arrangements featured a generous lack of Hirano, so my hopes were not all gone. The first few pieces had been enough to keep my attention, and while they had been “fun”, only the Mikuru arrangements had left a particularly strong impression. However, the rest of the album was quite a ride, especially the Hare Hare Yukai arrangement.
    As a whole I enjoyed the efforts of Hamaguchi and the ever-stringy Tokyo Philharmonic (though seemingly not as much as you did), but the album didn’t leave as much of an impact as, say, the Aria piano arrangements you mentioned (harmony in simplicity again?). And though the “Bolero”-esque excerpt of Shostakovich’s 7th did little for the album, remember that the first epic space battle in Conquest was executed to the entirety of Ravel’s simple tune.

    Reply
  • July 28, 2009 at 6:39 pm
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    An enjoyable read. I’ve always had a thing for orchestrated, string-heavy music, and while the Haruhi BGM really wasn’t that memorable for me, the samples you have here are great. I’ll look into it.

    Reply
  • July 29, 2009 at 12:36 am
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    @qtipbrit
    That’s pretty darn comprehensive comment and I think a big part of what makes some of the arrangements on this album better than others is the “harmony in simplicity” that you mentioned. Still not a fan of the “Bolero” though, especially when it’s on its own. With context, I think the piece improves quite a bit.

    @ETERNAL
    Definitely worth a listen. The arrangements are pretty solid in that there’s a good amount of variety and inspiration tossed around. My beef with TAMusic has always been that their music is bland and this album is anything but.

    Reply
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    • October 16, 2010 at 11:41 am
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      @Audrey
      It’s a pretty decent album all around and the quality of the arrangements are creatively done! Definitely give it a shot!

      Reply
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