My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away - people wonder at the magic of Studio Ghibli films far beyond their native Japan, within which the director Hayao Miyazaki recounts his stories in anime guise. But what would these films be without their soundtracks? Just like with Steven Spielberg and John Williams, Miyazaki has forged a unique artistic bond with the Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi that has lasted almost 40 years, with the latter’s compositions being instrumental in the films’ successes. Now we can discover his greatest Studio Ghibli hits re-recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - a first-class Deutsche Grammophon debut.
In 1983, the two artists made their first collaboration for the anime film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, for which Hisaishi would create “image music” (i.e. music that reflects the character and characters of the film or series). Miyazaki was so convinced by the music that, since the founding of Studio Ghibli in 1985, he was to underscore each of his films with Hisaishi’s compositions - to our eternal good fortune, because the pieces such as the waltz "Merry-Go-Round of Life" (from Howl’s Moving Castle), "A Town with an Ocean View" (from Kiki’s Delivery Service) or the touching "One Summer’s Day (The Name of Life)" (from Spirited Away) enchant the images as they appear on the big screen with very special magic. With a total of 29 tracks from 10 films, Hisaishi presents A Symphonic Celebration, with the crème de la crème of his Studio Ghibli works in all their diversity - as composer, conductor and pianist - newly arranged for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In fact, this is the first time that the film music of Princess Mononoke and Porco Rosso has been recorded with a professional world orchestra. During an interview, Hisashi tells us himself:
“We recorded the project last year in a church with a huge choir and orchestra, and that was really great. The orchestras in Europe somehow have a longer, fuller sound. Of course, the musicians in Japan are also highly professional, but in Vienna or London the feeling for the music is a bit different again.”
Whether it’s in Japan, Europe or America - with A Symphonic Celebration we can now enjoy Hisaishi’s wonderful and unique film music all over the world, and immerse ourselves fully in the fabulous stories of Miyazaki’s anime characters.