OSV: Tell us a bit about the origin of Final Symphony and how it came to be.
Böcker: Back in 2009, Nobuo Uematsu approached me right after the performance of Symphonic Fantasies in Cologne. He said that I should really bring such a concept to Japan – and he expressed his wish to see a full concert with music from Final Fantasy in a similar style as we did with Symphonic Fantasies. The very same year I went to Tokyo, and I met with Nobuo Uematsu and Square Enix again. For the first time, we officially discussed plans of a Symphonic Fantasies performance in their home country, and the concept of a new Final Fantasy concert. Naturally, all this takes a lot of time development-wise, but in 2011 we got permission to announce Symphonic Fantasies Tokyo for January 2012, and a few months later, we were allowed to reveal Final Symphony to the public.
The main premise of Final Symphony is to offer a new view on the music of Final Fantasy. It has been more than ten years now that an official, full concert with arrangements never heard live before got performed, at the 20020220 music from Final Fantasy event in Tokyo. We are very grateful to Square Enix for offering such an opportunity to Merregnon Studios, and for showing such a great trust in our work. Creating a new Final Fantasy concert is definitely a highlight of my career and an unbelievable honor.
OSV: Final Fantasy is a popular choice for video game concerts around the world. How do you approach the challenge of standing apart from the other series of concert dedicated to the franchise?
Böcker: The Symphonic series has always been different to others – especially Symphonic Fantasies, Legends and Odysseys. Final Symphony won’t be an exception. We will follow our path with elaborate arrangements capturing the atmosphere of the games, and telling their stories musically, not depending on video screens. The scores will be 100% newly written for the concert, featuring music from Final Fantasy VI, VII and X exclusively. This focus allows us to present music which hardly or never gets performed.
My goal telling stories musically originates in my project entitled Merregnon – Video Game World Symphony that I produced back in 1999. Video game composers such as Chris Hülsbeck and Yuzo Koshiro were asked to express a fairy tale through their music. What we are doing today with the Symphonic series does not differ much from this basic concept, however, now we follow the stories of the original games, using the original music in new arrangements – and the imagination of our audience.
OSV: You have worked with Masashi Hamauzu many times in the past, for Vielen Dank, Symphonic Legends and Symphonic Odysseys. Now he will take part in Final Symphony as both arranger and composer. How much has Hamauzu meant for your productions over the years?
Böcker: Next to the fact that he is creating excellent arrangements, he shares the vision of our team when it comes to the approach on video game music. I think he explained it wonderfully in his foreword for the Symphonic Fantasies Tokyo booklet, where he is saying that it needs courage to offer something new and exciting. If you stick with standards and central trends, you most likely will be commercially successful – yes. But if you want to achieve something more, something which won’t fade away in people’s minds soon after the concert is over, you will be challenged. As an example, when we did Symphonic Fantasies, its concept was new with its overture and the four suites – the fantasies – comparable to movements in symphonies. But same as Masashi Hamauzu, we never shy away from experiments and controversies, and it is safe to say that Symphonic Fantasies marked a very important step in the world of video game music concerts, receiving high acclaim among fans and critics alike. It was a big risk at the time of its creation, though, but we were willing to take it.
OSV: Jonne Valtonen, Roger Wanamo* and yourself have now produced 5 concerts together, all of which have been award winning and critically acclaimed worldwide. What do you personally hope the 3 of you brought to the landscape of video game music concerts?
Böcker: High quality that changed the perception on how a video game music concert should be. Something that brought people from different generations and countries together and touched them emotionally. If we look back to 2003 when the first video game music concert outside Japan was presented in Germany, so much has changed. Today you can find such events performed all over the world. It makes me happy to see how well-regarded the series is, and it is my hope that we can go further promoting the quality of video game music this way.
*Roger Wanamo debuted at Symphonic Fantasies.
OSV: Final Symphony marks the final curtain for the pentalogy of symphonies you have produced since 2008. But is it the final production we will see from Thomas Böcker?
Böcker: Nothing has been decided yet on this regard. I cannot imagine producing a concert just for the sake of the tradition. It needs our full attention, it takes a year minimum to create an event of the scope of a Symphonic Fantasies or Final Symphony. However, as long as the music is great, as long as we find something exciting to work on as our team, I will be more than happy to continue on the field of video game music concerts.
Final Symphony tickets are now available at westticket.de. In addition to Masashi Hamauzu, Nobuo Uematsu has now been announced to be on hand at Final Symphony as a special guest. The event takes place on May 11, 2013 at 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM at the Stadthalle Wuppertal, Germany and will be performed by the Sinfonieorchester Wuppertal, conducted by Eckehard Stier.Tags: 5 Quick Questions, Final Fantasy, Final Symphony, Interviews, Masashi Hamauzu, Nobuo Uematsu, Orchestra, Symphonic Fantasies, Symphonic Legends, Symphonic Odysseys, Thomas Boecker