Joe Hisaishi Symphonic concert – Prague, 2019-05-05

On this website I have mentioned before that Joe Hisaishi is is one of my favorite film music composers, and I also said that he tends to rarely leave his home country of Japan. That last statement is not really true anymore, since he has visited Europe many times in the last ten years. During that time I attended four of Hisaishi’s concerts. Some of these performances have been quite Iunique: Some presented a varied mix of his music including animation classics like My Neighbor Totoro or Princess Monoko as well as live-action films like Kids Return and Kikujiro, others focused exclusively on his music for the Ghibli movies. The last Hisaishi concert I have attended included his classical work The East Land Symphony. This music is not easy to listen to but it was quite an experience. The music Hisaishi is most famous for is his work for the Ghibli movies. He once conducted a massive concert in Japan with a huge orchestra and a choir of 800 singers. This concert can be bought on Blu-ray, and I have watched and listened to it many times. It is nearly impossible to repeat a concert on that scale somewhere else, but a smaller version is quite feasible. This has been done all over the world, and I have attended one of these concerts in Paris, which was a very unique and amazing experience.

© Pavel Král

I was quite happy when Boha.Agency, the small team that organizes Film Music Prague, announced a Ghibli concert to be held in Prague on May 5th. Concerts like this tend to sell out fast, so I secured tickets  as soon as they went on sale. Just as expected, the concert did sell out quickly, even though it took a little longer than I had anticipated. Due to the high demand for tickets, two further concerts were announced. This really shows how popular Hisaishi and Ghibli music are.

As expected, the program was almost the same as at the Paris concert in 2017. With that in mind, I will not go into detail about the separate music pieces of the concert. If you are curious about those, I recommend that you read my report on the Joe Hisaishi Symphonic Concert in Paris first.

The Prague concert started with beautiful pieces from Nausicaä, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, The Wind Rises and Ponyo. While Hisaishi’s daughter Mai Fujisawa joined him in Paris to perform the “Nausicaä Requiem,” she was unfortunately not present for this concert, but her part was beautifully done by the women in the choir. Soprano Karolína Žmolíková, who is a regular artist for Film Music Prague, sang the Mononoke Hime song marvelously. For The Wind Rises the program showed a mandolin, but for some reason it was not present, so the concertmaster played the duet with Hisaishi instead.     

© Pavel Král

I noticed the program showed an intermission, which was a clear sign for me that no marching bands would be present for the Laputa: Castle in the Sky music. If that had been the case, the marching bands would have taken over the program while the main orchestra would have taken a small break. To be honest, I was expecting a small disappointment, but the alternative was an amazing experience. For the second half, only the choir, the percussion players, the woodwind musicians and the trombones with the tuba player entered the stage. I had already spotted the French horn and the trumpet players on the balcony. Together, they performed their delicate version of the music from Laputa. I think I enjoyed this performance more than the version with the marching bands, since the music was coming from all around the venue, instead from a couple of musicians playing their instrument very close to you.

For the next piece, which was “Bygone Days” from Porco Rosso, the trombones and tuba players stood around the piano with the clarinet players to perform it together. Afterwards, the full orchestra came onto the stage to play the music from Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away, where vocalist Kamila Nývltová sang the song together with Hisaishi on the piano.

The most famous music written by Hisaishi is for the movie My Neighbor Totoro, and as expected it was played last on the program. As with the concert in Paris, each group of musicians stood up in turn to play a part of the melody. Before Hisaishi left the stage together with the orchestra to stop the audience from applauding, we could listen to an encore, which was the gorgeous piece “Ashitaka and San” from Princess Mononoke.

© Pavel Král

For me, this concert was a very interesting experience, because I had attended it before in a different venue. While most of it was the same, there were also quite a few differences. The budget for the Paris concert must have been massive, since it involved three orchestras, a regular choir and a children’s choir, as well as Mai Fujisawa’s presence. This concert only had one orchestra and two regular choirs, but to be honest, it was a more intimate experience for me. I liked the venue as well. While it was still quite large, I had a clear view of the stage from my balcony seat. The amplification of the orchestra sounded a bit artificial at the start, but they probably flipped a few switches, because it became more natural pretty fast.

During this concert I experienced all kinds of emotions, I felt happy while seeing the beautiful childish images on the screen, and sometimes a tear appeared when listening to the soprano or the choir singing. This concert was such a wonderful experience. If one is announced close to you, I definitely recommend attending it.  

Concert information

Orchestra: Praga Sinfonietta conducted by Joe Hisaishi
Choir: Kühn Choir and Vox Pragae Choir led by Lenka Navrátilová
Soprano: Karolína Žmolíková
Vocalist: Kamila Nývltová  

Program

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
    • The Legend of the Wind
    • Nausicaä Requiem
    • The Battle between Mehve and Corvette
    • The Distant Days
    • The Bird Man
  • Princess Mononoke
    • The Legend of Ashitaka
    • The Demon God
    • Princess Mononoke (Soprano: Karolína Žmolíková)
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
    • A Town with an Ocean View
    • Heartbroken Kiki
    • Mother’s Broom
  • The Wind Rises
    • A Journey (A Dream of Flight)
    • Nahoko (The Encounter)
    • A Journey (A Kingdom of Dreams)
  • Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
    • Deep Sea Pastures
    • Mother Sea (Soprano: Karolína Žmolíková)
    • Ponyo’s Sisters Lend a Hand – A Song for Mothers and the Sea
    • Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Intermission

  • Laputa: Castle in the Sky
    • Doves and the Boy
    • Carrying You
  • Porco Rosso
    • Bygone Days
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
    • Symphonic Variation “Merry-go-round + Cave of Mind”
  • Spirited Away
    • One Summer’s Day
    • Reprise (Vocals: Kamila Nývltová)
  • My Neighbor Totoro (Soprano: Karolína Žmolíková, Vocals: Kamila Nývltová)
    • The Path of the Wind
    • Hey Let’s Go
    • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Princess Mononoke (encore)
    • Ashitaka and San

One comment

  1. Great review, thanks for sharing 🙂

    I attended the “same” concert in Lyon. It was magical, reminded me of the great concert in Krakow many years ago… My daughter loved it, it was her first Hisaishi concert, surely not the last!

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