Hisaishi meets Miyazaki/Joe Hisaishi

May 1, 2008

Milan Records, a good friend and supporter of Golden Scores, has released a compilation CD (M2-36354) of music that Joe Hisaishi has done for Hayao Miyazaki films. For those not familiar (including myself), Hayao is the king of animation material in Japan. He has produced, directed, and written several top grossing films which include Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Winds, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away all for Studio Ghibli, a company he co-founded. It is these films that are included in this current release.

Hisaishi writes, at least for these films, in a smooth easy flowing style. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, a seventeen minute work, is simply divided into three tracks titled first, second, and third movements without any tempo notations. The first movement is divided into three different sections. A timpani and brass opening leads right into the main theme performed by the piano of Hisaishi and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, very lush, delicate, and romantic. It transitions quietly into the second theme performed sprightly by the oboe with the strings arranged in 19th century European classical style. It seques itself into a third theme quite solemn before the pace quickens to a frantic pace, timpani pounding to a rousing conclusion. The second movement opens lushly before it repeats the second theme but this time with a wordless song. The third movement uses the entire orchestra in a theme of hope, restating the first theme using the delicate piano touch of Hisaishi, before ending on a positive upbeat crescendo. Porco Rosso, with the track “Madness” is quick paced theme featuring the piano of Joe, this time not delicate but more staccato like. Princess Mononoke offers 4 tracks (21+ minutes) of wonderful melodies for symphony orchestra except for the darker mysterious “TA.TA.RI.GAMI” with robust brass and timpani. For those of you who enjoy brass and a dissonant style with a definite oriental influence, “The Dragon Boy/The Bottomless Pit” from Spirited Away will be much to your liking. The other three tracks from Spirited Away offer Joe Hisaishi and his piano backed by soft romantic arrangements from the New Philharmonic Orchestra.

Overall this CD is one that takes me back to the days when Previn, Mancini, Roger Williams, and others recorded with a symphony in the 60’s. All had there unique playing style, and Hisaishi has one that is quite pleasing to the ears. There are some who will call this elevator style music but this reviewer is not in that category. Having very little experience with Japanese animation films I still found all of these symphonic works a pleasant listening experience away from the films, especially the material from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds. This is assuredly a CD that doesn’t require you to see the film to enjoy what it has to offer. It has been said that “Joe Hisaishi is the John Williams of Japan”. This is a statement that I can’t argue with and because of this CD will look to explore more of his work. I heartily give it my recommendation!


Track listing

1. Symphonic Poem 1st Movement (09:32)

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Winds

2. Symphonic Poem 2nd Movement (03:58)

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Winds

3. Symphonic Poem 3rd Movement (04:11)

Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Winds

4. Madness (04:16)

Porco Rosso

5. The Legend Of Ashitaka (05:32)

Princess Mononoke

6. Princess Mononoke (04:32)

Princess Mononoke

7. TA.TA.RI.GAMI (06:48)

Princess Mononoke

8. Ashitaka And San (04:18)

Princess Mononoke

9. One Summer’s Day (04:50)

Spirited Away

10. The Dragon Boy / The Bottomless Pit (04:05)

Spirited Away

11. The Sixth Station (03:45)

Spirited Away

12. Reprise (04:42)

Spirited Away

Total Duration: 01:00:29



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