Live Review: The Legend of Zelda Symphony Was Not Exactly a Gamer’s Wet Dream

It’s been a few years since the last time I caught The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses, an orchestral tour seemingly created for gamers like myself. Blending the live sounds of an orchestra with pre-recorded clips from various Zelda video games, the event, which got its start in Los Angeles in 2011, is the perfect marriage of the gaming and classical worlds.

But, while the show did hit some of the right notes, it just didn’t hit all of them.  

The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses started off strong: I almost got chills from the theme from Gerudo Valley. Up next was a battle medley, kicking off with a tuba solo that just needed a little more crispness and clarity in its opening run, starting off a bit muffled (or perhaps it was just flubbed at first). I’m also unsure why the bass section from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was as quiet as it was, which sadly ended up becoming a precursor for one of my problems with the evening as a whole.

Newer material got most of the spotlight in the beginning, and it was pretty neat to hear music from recently-released games, like The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes — which came out last October — and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

From there, the show moved into the symphony proper (though the format or framework of the show was never explained like past concerts I’ve attended have done), starting with the creation prelude, and then the movement focusing on The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Perhaps my biggest overall issue throughout the evening was with its bombastic nature — or lack thereof. The orchestra beautifully captured the symphony’s slower, more somber, and saccharine moments — and it did, at times, let loose like the hell of Ganon was on their heels — but there were too many moments that should have been explosive, but instead felt more reserved and held back than they should have been. Granted, this could be the conductor’s preference or interpretation of the scores. And, sometimes, it was just certain instruments that needed to be brought out more — like portions of the sailing theme and Dragon Roost island from The Wind Waker movement. At other times, it felt like the entire orchestra was taking moments from the game that should have been soaring to the rafters and interpreting them as less thrilling.

Of course, this could have been done to highlight the extremes of dynamics at play, because the second half was a bit more loose and wild. But there was one moment where the conductor was gesturing the brass section to play quieter during The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess movement, and, well, no. Just no. Let them play out! This is music to fight evil by, for crying out loud.

I do want to give credit where it’s due: There were plenty of moments where I’d close my eyes and be completely absorbed in the music, and one in particular that did make me shudder. The symphony nailed those moments. It just didn’t nail everything, and didn’t completely capture the full range of emotions that the score for Zelda could elicit.

The last part focused on The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, keeping the same four basic movements that have been around since the show got started. It was a nice to hear smaller segments from more recent games early on in the show (at the expense of other segments that were cut), but the symphony just begs for an expansion outside of the main movements. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has been out long enough now to warrant its own movement at this point, and the show is also starting to overuse some of the main themes, as well.

The encore pieces also fell a bit flat: There was a new section for The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask 3D (Majora has been represented in past shows, but I’m pretty sure this was newly arranged), but it didn’t feel as full or fleshed out as the other sections. The Wind Waker encore didn’t grab me either, and the final finale, drawing from Skyward Sword, was repeating scenes that had already been covered in other parts of the symphony.

Overall, there were moments that I enjoyed, but I was left disappointed and wanting more, both out of the performance and the symphony’s music itself. This quest just needed a few more hearts. Or maybe a fairy in a bottle.

Critic’s Notebook:

-The concert master (I couldn’t find her name online) was REALLY into it, which was awesome. It’s nice seeing somebody who is used to playing music of Beethoven caliber really enjoying contemporary video game music.

-I do miss the Game Boy medley they used to do with music from the Oracle games.

-There were some technical issues, as well. The screen playing videos of the game crackled here and there, and there were two moments where it sure sounded like feedback was not happy with what was going on.

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