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Classical 101

A Symphonic Celebration of Japanese Cinema

 film posters with Japanese writing
Studio Ghibli

A massive, magical castle slowly creeps across a war-torn kingdom.

Two young sisters chase each other through a forest, giggling as they discover friendly wood spirits.

A boy and a goldfish-turned-human stop to marvel at the prehistoric aquatic life swimming under their boat. They race to restore the balance of nature.

These are just some of the scenes depicted in films directed by Hayao Miyazaki. However, the awe and wonder of these movies are truly shaped through the magical melodies of composer Joe Hisaishi.

Now for the first time, Hisaishi’s scores for Studio Ghibli films are featured as symphonic arrangements on a new Deutsche Grammophon Yellow Label release, A Symphonic Celebration.

Deutsche Grammophon

Joe Hisaishi ranks among Japan’s greatest composers. He is best known for his collaborative work with Oscar-winning director and Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki (pictured right), whose partnership spans back to 1984. However, Hisaishi is equally renowned as a conductor and composer of Western classical, Japanese classical, and minimalist music. He has worked with such composers as Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Nico Muhly. His soundtracks have won an amazing eight Japanese Academy Awards.

Hisaishi’s vast catalog includes over 100 film scores and 26 studio albums. He has also composed for the concert hall, including the symphony TRI-AD for large orchestra; The Border, a concerto for three horns and orchestra; and most recently Viola Saga.

  Joe Hisaishi (left) and Hayao Miyazaki (right)
Joe Hisaishi (left) and Hayao Miyazaki (right)

The Deutsche Grammophon release will deliver a richly varied range of audio recordings, spanning the full spectrum of Hisaishi’s work as a composer, conductor, and pianist. He has created an exciting series of symphonic arrangements for his original soundtracks for iconic Studio Ghibli classics such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro. A Symphonic Celebration was recorded in London, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and conducted by Hisaishi himself.

Now part of the Universal Music Group (UMG), Deutsche Grammophon is a German classical music record label established in 1898. Headquartered in Berlin Friedrichshain, it is the oldest surviving established record company and one of the most prestigious names in global classical music.

A Symphonic Celebration was released via Deutsche Grammophon and is available on CD, Standard LP, Clear LP, Sky Blue LP & Picture disc. The album features 29 tracks from the following films:

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Princess Mononoke
  • The Wind Rises
  • Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea
  • Castle In The Sky
  • Porco Rosso
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Spirited Away
  • My Neighbor Totoro

Selections are also available to listen to on various streaming platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music, and more.

Classical 101 movie soundtracksjapan
Larissa is an avid reader, writer, and musician working as an intern for classical. She is a PhD student and graduate teaching associate in the ethnomusicology department at The Ohio State University.