On 30 March 2023, Deutsche Grammophon announced the signing of an exclusive agreement with Joe Hisaishi, the revered Japanese composer whose work has become synonymous with the magical Studio Ghibli animations of director Hayao Miyazaki. Spanning the full spectrum of Hisaishi’s work as composer, conductor and pianist, the deal will deliver a richly varied range of audio and audiovisual recordings. For his first DG album, he has created an exciting series of symphonic arrangements of his original soundtracks for such Ghibli classics as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My neighbor Totoro. Fittingly titled A Symphonic Celebration, it presents state-of-the-art recordings of his extraordinary work for this much-loved artistic force in animated movie-making.
In advance of the release of A Symphonic Celebration this summer, the maestro made his debut at the Vienna Musikverein with the Wiener Symphoniker on 30 March (as part of the Wiener Symphoniker’s new concert series CINEMA:SOUND), and the label issued a first single from the album on 31 March – a joyful new version of the streaming hit “Merry-Go-Round of Life” from Studio Ghibli favourite Howl’s Moving Castle. Preorders of the album will go live on 14 April, alongside the release of a beautiful new version of “Mother’s Broom” from Kiki’s Delivery Service.
“I love the fact that Deutsche Grammophon pays special attention to both creativity and sound quality,” says Joe Hisaishi. “Working with its team of dedicated professionals to conjure new symphonic worlds for classical music-lovers will be a joy.”
Hisaishi ranks among Japan’s greatest composers of all time and is famed worldwide for his collaborative work with Oscar-winning director and Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki. Their creative partnership began in 1984 with the post-apocalyptic anime feature Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and has since developed to the point that they are now likened to other legendary director-composer pairings, including Hitchcock and Herrmann, Fellini and Rota, Leone and Morricone, and Spielberg and Williams. Indeed, Hisaishi’s reputation has been secured by the fact that his soundtracks have won eight Japanese Academy Awards, an unprecedented achievement. He is equally acknowledged, however, as a conductor and as a composer of contemporary classical music, much of it minimalistic and experimental in nature, like that of friends and colleagues such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Nico Muhly.
Universal Music Japan’s President/CEO Naoshi Fujikura says, “Our work with Joe Hisaishi, an artist with a brilliant career spanning over 40 years and multiple award-winning recordings, has always been a source of pride. We are truly proud to work with our friends at Deutsche Grammophon to bring his captivating scores to an even wider audience worldwide.”
Hisaishi’s first DG album, A Symphonic Celebration, turns the spotlight on his Studio Ghibli hits. Recorded in London by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the composer, its tracks are newly arranged by Hisaishi for symphony orchestra.
“During our first studio sessions together last summer, Joe Hisaishi enchanted the recording crew and musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with his thorough musicality, conducting authority and friendly manner,” recalls Kleopatra Sofroniou, DG’s General Manager Classics. “We feel honoured to have the opportunity of working with him on future audio and audiovisual productions.”
“Joe Hisaishi’s compositions are a fresh and genuinely original approach to symphonic music that is still rooted in the classical tradition,” says Dr Clemens Trautmann‚ President Deutsche Grammophon. “He reaches millions through his scores for the screen and attracts capacity audiences to all the major concert halls around the world. Together with our close partners at Universal Music Japan, we aim to document his irresistible music with signature recordings made by excellent musical partners such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Wiener Symphoniker.”
Hisaishi’s vast catalogue includes over 100 film scores and around 30 studio albums. He also wrote compositions for the concert hall, among them symphonies, TRI-AD for large orchestra, The Border, a concerto for three horns and orchestra and, most recently, Viola Saga, premiered in 2022. Furthermore, he has written and recorded a sequence of Piano Stories, tuneful miniatures that reflect their composer’s fascination with minimalism and feeling for vibrant instrumental colours.