When I was sent a copy of The Greatest Video Game Music for review from Naxos, a very large classical music distributor, I was puzzled as to why they were getting involved with this type of material. I saw London Philharmonic Orchestra and decided this had to be the reason. Was Naxos trying to expand my horizons? My experience with video games consisted of playing Tetris once and watching my grandchildren with their electronic boxes moving their forefingers and thumbs on a touch screen. My generation, the baby boomer era, played Monopoly, Scrabble, Pickup Sticks, Canasta, and Cribbage. The next thing that I noticed was the complete lack of information as to who composed what. As I started my research I found names of composers such as Tallarico, Pulkkinen, Zur, and Eriksson who were completely foreign to me. I did recognize Zimmer and Gregson Williams but no one else. Apparently this X5 Music Group didn’t feel it was important information and their target market had no desire who did what and how long each track was. There were no liner notes, apparently another area where there was little or no interest. At this point I was ready to forget the entire project and move on to the next CD but having never heard video game music I decided to explore a bit further and at least listen to it one time. I assumed it would be loud with lots of bombs going off, dissonant, synthesized, atonal, and basically underscore material. To my surprise I was pleasantly impressed with what I heard. When I thought about it and realized that this was a market as large as Hollywood film music it slowly came together in my gray matter that we’re not dealing with $8.00 hr help but some very high end music from talent composers.

“Angry Birds” written by Ari Pulkkinen doesn’t sound like a video game soundtrack but a Jewish folk dance. It begins with a melody line from a single hand on the piano and the orchestra is quickly drawn into the upbeat lively orchestration where all instruments are allowed to participate including a nice solo from the harp. There are multiple lines of harmony being offered making this track a fun one.

“Tetris” is based on a poem about a girl and a peddler a “Korobeiniki” written in 1861 by Nikoloy Nekresov which became a popular Russian folk dance. It was rewritten in 1989 by Hirokazu Tanaka for the Game Boy version of Tetris and has gone on to be one of the more recognizable tunes of recent years. The arrangement begins with a few beats, jazz style from the snare drum and quickly the piano offers a solo melody of the theme leading the listener into a well orchestrated folk dance that builds in tempo to a near frantic pace at the end. A great track which I’ve included as a clip. Tetris Theme

“Advent Rising” composed by Tommy Tallerico is a tragic cue offering a minor keyed melody featuring chanting from a chorus, nice harmonic lines, and good orchestration that builds to a powerful uplifting crescendo. This is a track that you’ll remember long after you turn the music off.

“Legend of Zelda,written by Koji Kondo, is little more than an imitation of Star Wars music. The predictable orchestration offers a pleasant enough theme but this is a music template that we’ve heard many times and offers nothing in the way or originality.

“Halo 3”- One Final Effort starts off as a piano concerto of sorts and shifts gears to an Irish melody with pounding percussion and good orchestration. The Martin O’Donnell composition is unique and offers the listener something a bit different.

“Super Mario Bros” is one that I would never have imagined coming from a video game as it sounds like more like a Leroy Anderson arrangement from the 50’s. The Koji Kondo offering is nicely orchestrated with percussion and the brass and woodwinds are a nice harmony for the composition. The London Philharmonic seems to have had a nice time recording this. Another favorite track.

As this is my very first listening experience as far as video music is concerned I overall enjoyed what I heard. The fact that there were no liner notes did not take away from the performance. While there were some electronics present it was mostly orchestral with bright brass, melodic lines, and nice string playing. If you’ve not heard video music before this would be a positive introduction. I certainly will explore more of this music.

1… Advent Rising Music- Tommy Tallarico (3:42)

2… Legend of Zelda Suite- Koji Kondo (3:16)

3… Call of Duty-Modern Warfare 2 Theme-Hans Zimmer (3:27)

4… Angry Birds Main Theme-Ari Pulkkinen (3:15)

5… Final Fantasy VIII Liberi Fatali-Nobuo Uematsu (3:07)

6… Super Mario Bros. Themes-Koji Kondo (4:07)

7… Uncharted-Drake’s Fortune/Nate’s Theme-Greg Edmonson (1:47)

8… Grand Theft Auto IV- Soviet Connection-Michael Hunter (3:02)

9… World of Warcraft-Seasons of War-Jason Hayes, (3:13)

10… Metal Gear Solid-Sons of Liberty Theme-Harry Gregson Williams (3:52)

11… Tetris Theme-“Korobeiniki”/based on a poem/Russian folksong (3:25)

12… Battlefield 2-Theme-Joel Eriksson (4:37)

13… Elder Scrolls-Oblivion-Jeremy Soule (1:50)

14… Call of Duty 4-Modern Warfare Main Theme Menu-Harry Gregson Williams/Stephen Barton (2:15)

15… Mass Effect-Suicide Mission-Jack Wall/Sam Hulick (4:48)

16… Splinter Cell-Conviction-Karen Cohen, Michael Nielson, and Anon Tobin (2:47)

17… Final Fantasy Main Theme-Nobo Uematsu (2:40)

18… Bioshock-The ocean on his shoulders-Garry Schyman (2:16)

19… Halo 3-One Final Effort-Martin O’Donnell (4:00)

20… Fallout 3-Theme-Inon Zur (2:20)

21… Super Mario Galaxy-Gusty Garden Galaxy-Mahito Yokoto (3:48)

Total Time is 69:17

Andrew Skeet conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra

CD#X5CD114 X5 music group