|Symphonic Suite Princess Mononoke
|Joe Hisaishi, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
|July 08, 1998
|1. 1st mvt: The Legend of Ashitaka
|2. 2nd mvt: TA TA RI GAMI
|3. 3rd mvt: The Journey to the West
|4. 4th mvt: Mononoke Hime
|5. 5th mvt: The Forest of the Deer God
|6. 6th mvt: Requiem – The Demon Power
|7. 7th mvt: The World of the Dead – Adagio of Life and Death
|8. 8th mvt: Ashitaka and San
Review: The existence of an orchestral arrangement of an anime movie’s score makes one wonder why that album was ever made, since the danger of redundancy is all too real when the anime itself sets its music to a magnificent, orchestral soundtrack. In this instance, the effort the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra pours into this symphonic suite pays off handsomely as they take the shorter tracks from Princess Mononoke’s soundtrack and by lengthening them, casts them into a mold worthy of the show’s epic plot. The best way to describe Symphonic Suite Princess Mononoke is that if the soundtrack conjures up the movie scene by scene, the music in the Symphonic Suite takes it a step further by delivering a full-fledged, awe-inspiring odyssey that immerses me into the middle of all the action.
This journey is reflected in “The Legend of Ashitaka,” which delivers a stirring orchestral air that leaves no doubt about the status of the eponymous character’s rendezvous with destiny. It’s grandeur sweeps the listener into its clutches as the string melody gushes forth with a commanding air, ushering all in its grasp far away from the misty mountains of Ashitaka’s village and into the rough and tumble of the world beyond. By removing himself from the comforts of home, Ashitaka embarks upon a path less traveled, but one that leads to greatness. The smooth, intrepid musical passages dominated mostly by the strings attest to the strength of his will to see things through to the end and become the force which shapes the world for the better.
The Legend of Ashitaka
But for that journey to begin, there must be an impetus and that moment is depicted in “TA TA RI GAMI.” This track, with its drumbeats, takes on the air of a chaotic battle as the dissonant melody brings out the savagery that only Nature herself could conjure up. There’s no stopping the fury evoked in this piece; the music’s relentlessness only slows down to depict the climactic showdown between man and beast. In that brief moment, the orchestra makes the most of it by weaving a thick layer of tension, before returning to the intense battle theme. As the encounter winds down, the aftermath leaves me uneasy with the discordant string phrases highlighting that anxiety keenly. Though the immediate threat has been quelled, it opens up many questions; to answer them, Ashitaka must go west.
TA TA RI GAMI
The next few tracks are evocative of the middle part of the story which starts with Ashitaka’s departure. “Journey to the West’s” introduction contains a hint of melancholy, reflecting the sadness of leaving home, but those somber tones quickly dissipate, making way for melody that carries a richer sort of purpose, elevating it beyond the textbook travel/adventure music and places it in the realm of quest music. Thoroughly grand, this track is where the scope of the odyssey is at its most apparent. “Mononoke Hime” is softer and more introspective, utilizing a warm, serene piano melody that nevertheless carries a slight dash of willfulness to encompass San’s multifaceted personality, delivering an excellent, heartfelt track all the while. The music takes a dissonant turn in “Forest of the Deer God” which tilts more towards the atmospheric as the strings play a glistening tone that radiantly reflects the warmth of the sunlight cascading through the treetops. Further in however, a thick, mysterious layer begins to form through a tone shift, and in doing so, depicts deeper forays into the heart of the forest. It’s at this point that the piece turns menacing once the bassoons settle in with their dissonant melody, and it’s soon evident why.
“Requiem – The Demon Power,” true to its name, is grim, with a melody more foul than fair once it hits the two-minute mark. Its harshness, heard through the dreadful crescendos that segue into dissonant phrases, is a harbinger of doom, which takes the form of a monstrous being that bears Nature’s fury. Those tones don’t subside until five minutes in when they’re replaced by the requiem that represents the death of Nature’s innocence as the call to reclaim what is hers sounds. This sets the stage for the danger that becomes fully-realized in “The World of the Dead – Adagio of Life and Death,” where the feeling of urgency dominates as the floodgates of doom are unleashed and few can survive its onslaught. Yet, even a rampaging entity can be appeased, and with that decisive chord to close out the piece, it signals an end to the entity’s anger as mankind is allowed a new beginning.
“The World of the Dead – Adagio of Life and Death
The wellspring of hope emerges in “Ashitaka and San” draws me in with tones suggestive of a rebirth. Through the piano melody, punctuated with moments in which the woodwinds take over, the ardor and gentleness seep into every fiber of my being, nourishing me by melting the pains and sorrows accumulated, and letting me start fresh. The gladness that stirs forth through the woodwind sections is soothing and as the rays of hope shine radiantly, I cannot help but feel optimistic for what lies ahead. Ashitaka has given his all to bring peace. May his efforts not be in vain as the spirit of cooperation he’s forged tie us together with Nature forevermore.
Ashitaka and San