Nier Piano Collections – USTREAM Report

March 20, 2012 at 5:52 am (Soundtracks) (, , )

1. Song of the Ancients
2. Emil
3. Hills of Radiant Wind
4. Gods Bound By Rules
5. Grandma
6. Kaine

I hold the Nier soundtrack in pretty high esteem. I hold the Piano Collections series in even higher esteem. What do I do when there is a mash-up of the two? Wake up at 4:30a.m. on a school day for a live streaming of the album, no questions asked.

Well alright, maybe a few questions asked. Leading up to the night, there were a good number of previews available for listening on the main website for the album. Was I impressed? Undoubtedly the pieces were as emotional as ever, but they were certainly not as complex or as varied as the piano collections arrangements I’ve come to know. Indeed, almost all of the previews sounded like their OST counterparts transcribed note for note to piano. Would that make some people happy? Certainly.

But not me. I wanted to hear improvisations on the themes that would bring new life to the pieces. The two piano tracks were heard on the 15 Nightmares arranged album was a perfect example of what I was looking for. I still hold that not matter how good this piano collections may turn out, the sheet music book should still contain as a bonus the sheets for those songs as well. They are GORGEOUS.

Despite the shortcomings of the samples for the Nier Piano Collections album, I still decided to brave the early hours of dawn to hear them played. What did I think?

4:34a.m. and they still haven’t started yet. The broadcast has started at a least, with a promo image and some snippets of OST songs in the background.

4:36 the camera switches to the audience and the stage. Wait, what? This was a concert? Not just a streaming like they did for 15 Nightmares? Ok this definitely was worth it! Can’t wait!

4:57 It’s off air? WHAT HAPPENED

4:58 It’s back 🙂

5:05 Is that Emil’s voice as the announcer? Waaaa! In character, no less.

5:11 The lights dim, and after a short mash up of clips, Emil’s voice actor takes the stage for introductions and MCing. And then…

Our first pianist takes the stage for “Song of the Ancients”. Some gameplay footage is shown on the screen during the performance. The arrangement takes heavily after the “Devola” version of the song, transforming at the bridge into a heavily improvised section that sounds just as impressive and similar in style but much different from the 15 Nightmares counterpart. And I was worried about the arrangements being to simple and easy? The performance is also heavily nuanced, and while it doesn’t cover all of the versions of the song, it is definitely a great track worthy of the name.

The soundtrack director and lead composer Keiichi Okabe takes the stage for a short talk with the pianist and MC before we hear our next song, “Emil” (note the deviance from the album’s actual track order). Taking after the “Sacrifice” version of the song, the arrangement is contemplative and again very expressive, still managing to fit in a quick piano run here and there. I don’t think this one quite lived up to the 15 Nightmares arrangement (which I forgot to mention, both of those tracks were arranged by Keigo Hoashi, who is our pianist and arranger for these tracks as well), but it was certainly not as bad as my expectations had fallen to from the previews.

Another pianist, Kumi Tanioka comes on stage for “Hills of Radiant Wind”. I find the arrangement to be a little typical, but the performance really helps elevate the song and give it the flowing atmosphere carried by the original.

“Gods Bound by Rules” was my favourite track from the soundtrack, mainly due to its epic explosive opening. They didn’t quite capture it here, but the non-stop flurry of notes that start the piece and the hammering chords at the end certainly do the rest of the track justice.

After an extended Q&A session, Tanioka returns to the piano for “Grandma”, the track which pulled me into the world of (the music of) Nier. I’m very appreciative of the liberty taken on this track (which may disappoint some listeners since almost none of the piano line patterns from the OST ver make it onto this version). The arrangement is given more dynamic variation than its original counterpart, and the result is nothing less than a breathtaking interpretation of one of the most loved songs from the soundtrack. Even Tanioka was in tears after the performance.

“Kaine” performed by Hoashi ends the night. I was initially rather disappointed with this track, which opened sounding really quite identical to the “Salvation” version, but about midway through, like the two opening tracks of the night the song flourishes through a moving improvisation on the theme. The structure is a little too similar to those tracks as a result, but it is was still enjoyable. Perhaps it was the fact that I was not expecting it, but I found the new passage it more moving the new parts from the first two pieces. Seems like the Japanese fans did too, based on their tweets.

Now, the concert was not the whole album, and perhaps some of the arrangements were a little differed/improvised for this concert? I’ll complete my review for the album at a later date, once I get my copy (and I will definitely be getting a copy after this!). From what was seen here tonight though, I definitely look forward to it. There are some parts that are a little straightforward, but the source material is moving enough that it’s alright. As for the newer parts of the arrangements, they are very welcomed. There’s a decent balance between old and new, and hopefully that holds on the album as well (although I would love more of the ‘new’ stuff).

Edit: I was right, some of the more interesting passages from the performances were improvised for the concert. Check out my review of the full album here.


1 Comment

  1. Marvin said,

    I really want to listen to those live performances 😦

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