Symphonic Fantasies: Music from Square Enix at the Barbican Centre
Square Enix, a partnership of two prolific Japanese video game developers, is a familiar name amongst gamers. Over the past 40 years they’ve developed a digital dynasty creating rich games that have generated lasting appeal. Not only have these games established a cult following across the world, but so has the music that accompanied players on their fantastical journeys through virtual worlds. Symphonic Fantasies, originally performed in 2012 by the WDR Philharmonic Orchestra in Cologne, is an orchestral victory lap celebrating the very best of Square Enix’s music.
Not to be outdone by their German counterparts, a brisk October evening saw the London Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Chorus – under the enthusiastic direction of conductor Eckehard Stier – on rude form. Opening with a suite from Kingdom Hearts, a videogame mashup of Disney heroes and Square Enix’s most notable characters, they tackled the soaring strings of Dearly Beloved and martial rhythms of Sora with palpable energy. In keeping with the game’s content, the entire suite was light full of vigour.
With the newer content out of the way, the immensely talented orchestra turned to the real meat of the evening: a tour de force of some of the most iconic music in video game history. Perhaps the closest to a cinematic soundtrack was the Secret of Mana suite that was equal parts foreboding and inspiring. From the impressive choral opening of Fear of the Heavens to the stirring, epic brass of Prophecy, the entire suite was an absolute standout in a concert packed with great music.
Other crowd favourites were, of course, found in the Final Fantasy suite. With a four-decade back catalogue, much of which was scored by cult figure Nobou Uematsu, arrangers Jonne Valtonen and Roger Wanamo would have been hard pressed not to have fans cheering from the stalls. And cheer they did, much to the orchestra’s delight. Throughout the delicate harp pluckings of Prelude, whimsical Swing de Chocobo and the iconic chant of One Winged Angel, the audience were functionally a second choir. Albeit one that contributed with whooping and applause rather than the Symphony Chorus’ more refined approach.
Regardless of whether you’re an orchestral fan, nascent gamer or card carrying geek god, Symphonic Fantasies has something to offer. It’s a brilliant celebration of how far video games have come as a medium and is another success by the London Symphony Orchestra.
Photos: Connor Picken
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Listen to the Secret of Mana suite here: