5 Jun 2011

4th Film Music Festival in Kraków - Joe Hisaishi

Thursday, the 19th of May 2011 

Special guest: Joe Hisaishi – for the first time in Europe!

A concert prepared in collaboration with the legendary Japanese studio Ghibli 

Spirited Away 
Howl's Moving Castle 
Princess Mononoke 
Laputa – Castle in the Sky
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind 
Suites from Takeshi Kitano's films (including Hana–bi, Kids Return, Summer ) 
Wioletta Chodowicz – soprano 
Pro Musica Mundi Choir
Sinfonietta Cracovia
Boys' Choir of the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Cracow
Joe Hisaishi – piano, Conductor

As I mentioned already in my previous post, there was a little problem with arriving to the right place where concert was held. But no wonder I was exaggerating. The fact that I will see the Master still seemed unbelievable for me and I believed something tragic could happen. Fortunately, it didn't seem to be the case.

The start of the concert was proceeded by the first meeting with presenters - Magdalena Miśka - Jackowska and Andrzej Młynarczyk. It's not like I was happy about that, even inversely. Just realize I would see them every next day.
When, after they hailed the name of Master, he first showed up coming from the backstage - I felt like my heart stopped. I will never forget this moment - applause loud like it was already after the concert. It is a feeling not possible to describe, to see a Man you wanted to see so much, but you were sure it is not possible in the near time. A person in whose music you fall in love, which took a very big role in your life.
To begin with, he thanked the orchestra (Sinfonietta Cracovia) and choirs (Pro Musica Mundi Choir,  Boys' Choir of the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Cracow). Never mind about that. Joe was ready to play and so.... They started!

 First part 

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

For people knowing the artist, probably nothing else was more expected that "Nausicaa" would open this concert. And so it was. After the  music of "Princess Mononoke", perhaps, that is my favorite work of Joe Hisaishi. How much exciting was it to listen to it live - just impossible to say. But just that it was his music, unfortunately, didn't mean the performance would be epic as well. It actually wasn't. While I have been listening I could concentrate about the sound, but I couldn't not hear there something wasn't quite right.
From just the beginning I have noticed some instruments playing not clear enough. Of course the whole suite wasn't bad performed at all - I just couldn't stop thinking how the exact moments supposed to be played, like in the original. But it wasn't the biggest problem. I heard a kind of noise, which definitely shouldn't be to hear. Fortunately not the whole concert was affected by it, especially only the beginning.
Both Choirs I found to be singing nice, but I wouldn't believe if that could go wrong.
About what I was most disappointed... Was a certain moment, completely changing the melody of suite. I love it most of the whole music for Nausicaa. And here they... They screwed it up, I must say it! I was waiting so long for hearing it and instead some kind of wind instrument drowned it. Maybe it still didn't sound bad, but I felt sad.
All piano parts were successfully, it's logical, because the pianist was just the Master.

Princess Mononoke

Definitely the most awaiting part of the concert, at least for me. I didn't even consider a possibility to not meet compositions of this Anime on the concert of Joe Hisaishi. Of course after Nausicaa's suite I was wondering how would the orchestra and choir performs this time. The beginning... I might call it the most awaiting motive - "Ashitaka's Theme". The best compositions of Joe ever, in my opinion. Here they used the same arrangement like in the concert in Budokan (actually the same was with Nausicaa), so I especially should be excited. Still, it wasn't so epic as it supposed to be! What irritated me most, was a fragment when trumpets played an important role. They didn't really discharged very well. About the choir... I don't really remember, however there also was something not perfect about it.
After that, there came TATARIGAMI - and hell, here I was really impressed, beautifully performed. Not worse was with the main theme of Princess Monnoke - Wioletta Chodowicz, soprano, was singing quite well. The only, maybe not big, problem was the language. It was English, not Japanese. And that was also very sad for me.

Second part

Keaton's "The General"
-I Movement
 -V Movement

At first, I wasn't sure if to cry or be happy to see a surprise like that. Then, so called, program of the concert was not needed to be written. You see it at the beginning of my post. How could they write it all down, when is not telling the truth? After a moment, I started to think about it a bit differently - the program is still actual, but just now, Joe decided to put something special. However, after all it really was a part of the not-anounced program. I wasn't prepare very well to listen to this, but on the other hand, maybe it was better this way?
"Keaton's The General" played by Sinfonietta Cracovia sounded really amazing. I remembered it from listening to studio CD not very well, yet I'm able to say that was magnificent.
Here the music was actively connected with the video. They just showed some part of the original movie. The music of Master really seems to be good relaying the atmosphere of it. Someday I need to watch it whole. Since that is a really old film, I believe it was mute. Is Joe the first "composer" of the music for "The General"? That's interesting.

Third part 

Departures ("Melodyphony")

I believe a big part of the crowd gathered in the hall, had no idea, but Joe began promoting his last studio album - "Melodyphony". Maybe I did mention about it earlier. It is a compilation of his best works. Or so internet surfers decided voting for certain compositions to be there.
Departures was definitely a good choice. After I listened the album several times, it became as a one of the best track on it. I guess there wouldn't be a problem no matter what instrument Joe would have to prepare compositions for. In "Departures" the main character is/was a cellist. During the play, video was amazingly connected with the sound, so we could see a main character playing cello in the same moment as the real cellist on the stage. What about him? Well, even though he was a soloist... I didn't see an information about his name. However, an opinion about his performance is nothing hard to reveal. I have a bad news - it wasn't as good to make me thrilled.

Spirited Away
- "One Summer's Day" ("Melodyphony")

Wouldn't he performs "Spirited Away"? No mater how different was the program - there was no possibility to not put something from this, I believe most famous, movie of Hayao Miyazaki. One Summer's Day is simply beautiful and since most important in it is the piano - there was no way for it to be bad performed. That's a shame there was no time to play more tracks. I would die to listen to "Reprise". I was so looking forward to it.

- "Summer" ("Melodyphony")

Summer! Who doesn't love it? I bet there is anyone not at least liking this legendary motive, just after the first play. I found violins to be not playing exactly as they should (pizzicato), but there was no problem with the piano. That is the last movie with Hisaishi's inferential I have seen before this magic day, so I still remembered the movie very good - it was so amazing to see scenes from it on the screen.

Fourth part 

- Raging Men

Probably less awaited track from "Brother". Not any of those "nostalgic" ones were performed, but "Reging Men", I must admit that create a very good atmosphere (loud, brutal), especially for the next, creating a contrast...


I never really loved HANA-BI theme, but as all of Joe's music, it has something beautiful in it. This depressing, nostalgic tune... I don't know how to describe it properly. I liked the fact they showed on the screen the scene with his wife, when he was "guessing" what card it was.

Kids Return

Awesome! So after all, much music from Kitano's films were performed. Some days ago, yet before the festival, I've posted the video of Kids Return live from youtube. Besides the astonishing arrangement, I think it also described as to how much I love this theme. Obviously, here we did deal with completely another kind of concert. I knew this arrangement quite good. I think performance here was also very good. I started to feel like with every next minute, performers are getting better! And you know? I wasn't wrong.

Fifth part 

- The Villain Theme
- Tribute To Japan

Even though that was the last soundtrack for movie composed by Master - I was surprised. This one I couldn't enjoy very much, even after listening the full album few times. Maybe I need a bit more or maybe there is too less Hisaishi's style for me. I wouldn't say I didn't enjoy listening though - I really did.
After ending the main theme, something kinda expected happened - "Tribute to Japan", that is what. On the scene came again Wioletta Chodowicz. Unfortunately, I don't remember how were the lyrics or rather if they were the same as those ones in the original song in Akunin. But as far as I can recall, it was a very good connection. and fitted like everything else. What I mean by "everything else" is the music and video on the screen obviously, showing results of the disaster.

Sixth part


Above, I told you that performances were getting better with every next minute, right? I'm curious what would I heard if the event was longer. Ponyo was performed PERFECTLY. And it had everything in it - instrumental music, but also chorus and soprano. That definitely was the longest compositions played this day. Maybe a movie is a bit controversial, however - I can't deny the genuine of a music!
Not really realizing, it also was the end of the concert. Of course there just had to be encore, so after standing ovations, there it came... (they made a fail showing the title on the screen before Joe returned to play. Well, I guess we must realize the fact it was all prepared)...


Howl's Moving Castle
- The Merry-go-round of Life

The music for "Howl's Moving Castle" became quite popular. Especially this beautiful waltz. No "Cave of Mind", but I guess the encore can't be that long. Fantastic. But the real final...was after that...

My Neighbor Totoro

When they showed a poster and started playing - there was an applause. No wonder Totoro arouse the biggest emotions of Ghibli fans. This time... Or rather after the performance, well, it was really not possible to not be touched. Seeing Totoro on the screen along with listening to the music... Amazing. It was so cheering up and yet moving - as it is even without live experience. Choir singing "To-to-ro To-to-ro" became a hit among the public. The wild smile of Joe ending this concert - priceless.

It actually was hard to believe, but only  ~105 minutes after Joe started conducting - he ended it. It definitely seemed to be much shorter.
I don't have to say how strong was the applause.

A conclusion?
Even though there were some kind of fail and mistakes - I think it was the most epic evening of my life. About that, it was as I expected. The fact I also wanted and was sure to hear a perfect performance of all compositions, unfortunately didn't work. However...should I complain?

I felt incredible happy just about Joe Hisaishi arrival and I still feel happy and excited I had an occasion to see him. There is also a matter of tracklist - Some compositions I wanted to hear so badly were not played, including especially "Reprise" from Spirited Away, "Ashitaka and San" from Princess Mononoke, generally music from Kiki's Delivery Service, Sonatine... And many, many more. I can't believe Laputa wasn't played too. Porco Rosso is too jazzy for this kind of concert I suppose, though "Madness" would definitely fit.
I don't want to tell you in the review, how sad I'm though, about not seeing him personally and that I haven't got his autograph - I'll do this in the next entry, along with writing about next day's conference.

Here is an official video reportage of the 1st day of the festival, with English subs. I don't really recommend it to watch - annoyed me that they are talking generally about the event, not about yesterday's concert. Anyhow, you can listen to and watch few samples. They didn't show too much, though. Actually, very less.

All pictures of the show are taken from the FMF photo gallery. Thanks! 

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