Long have I been a fan of piano arrangements of game music. I find it fascinating to see how someone else places expression over what is usually a rigid theme. Keiko has been a fan concert performer of many arrangements over the last few years and brings her effortlessly emotive style with her to this double CD collection.
Whilst a couple of the tracks have been released on arrangement albums before, this is the definitive collection of piano arrangements for Final Fantasy XIV. Whilst it is the Final Fantasy game I know the least about (I haven’t played it as I don’t play MMO’s), the collection is lavishly put together. From the smokey jazz entrance of ‘Serenity’, we are whisked away with a magical rendition of ‘A New Hope’ which sparkles. ‘Ink Long Dry’ is a maddening bass-heavy waltz. What Keiko brings to each arrangement is a step-change in style and poise from motif to motif. After the waltz, it switches to swing, jazz and then moody classical at the turn of a heel.
‘Heroes’ lets Keiko stretch her fingers with a rousing powerful tour de force which is only trumped by the heart-pounding ‘Imagination’ on disc 2 and maybe the regal and gothic drenched ‘Borderless’. The latter could be my favourite track on the whole collection as it is a simple melody that is expanded out to a river of notes and symphonies. On the battle anthems ‘The Worms’ Tail’ is where the drama and explosive piano is. Keiko plays with finesse and the arrangement is top-notch. It’s also worth noting the album closes with ‘Crimson Sunset’ which pairs the piano with flute. It sounds like a shakuhachi but the duet is a beautiful oddity on the otherwise piano solo collection.
One other thing to mark this collection out is the sheer length of it. Most of the arrangements come in at over six minutes and ‘I Am The Sea’ is nine. In some cases, these feel like classical symphonic movements as the tone shifts often which keeps the arrangements fresh. Occasionally it can feel a little overlong, perhaps as I’m not nearly as familiar with the original source material.
Final Fantasy XIV Piano Collection is a masterful collection of piano arrangements. Whilst it may be a bit more classically or jazz focused than I’d like, it takes nothing away from the technical achievements of Keiko. This one is going to be a grower I know it – and fans of the original score or classical piano will adore this too.
Favourite Track: Borderless
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