Eternal Sonata Literally Includes Some Of The Greatest Music Of All Time

Eternal Sonata Literally Includes Some Of The Greatest Music Of All Time
Image: Bandai Namco / Kotaku
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Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s ongoing hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-arse sounds they make. This morning I am totally cheating by presenting you with tracks from Eternal Sonata, the Bandai Namco RPG that features music composed by 19th-century Polish classical superstar Frédéric Chopin. That’s right, come at me.

Eternal Sonata (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) is a delightfully odd video game. It’s a 30- to 40-hour turn-based role-playing game that takes place in the final hours before the 39-year-old composer’s death by tuberculosis. An anime-styled version of the famed pianist fights alongside a group of colourful adventurers with music-inspired names like Polka, Allegretto, and Beat against villains like Count Waltz. The constant musical references are endearing, giving the game a lighthearted tone that balances out the game’s occasional trips to the real world, where Chopin lays dying.

The game is split into eight chapters, each centered around one of Chopin’s popular works. While veteran RPG composer Motoi Sakuraba does a fantastic job composing the game’s original music, it’s Chopin’s work, as performed by pianist Stanislav Bunin, that carries us through the adventure. It begins with “Raindrops.”

Bandai Namco / MrKaiser891 (YouTube)

Known formally as “Prelude, Op. 28, No. 15,” “Raindrops” is one of Chopin’s 24 preludes, short piano pieces covering each of the major and minor keys. This piece is known for the A♭ notes that repeat throughout, which reminds listeners of the gentle patter of rain. The piece starts out light and whimsical, then grows darker and more dramatic, only to resolve in a reprise of the lighter opening tune. To me, “Raindrops” is about nature persevering through dark moments. The gentle rain always returns. Hearing that music, which my mother used to play when I was much younger than I am now, in a colourful anime video game, is jarring, but comforting.

Yes, we’re listening to classical music. Isn’t it nice? Try this one, “Fantaisie-Impromptu,” aka “Fantasy Impromptu.” It’s one of Chopin’s most performed works, its allegro agiato (fast and cheerful but played in an agitated manner) tempo a fine showcase of a pianist’s skill. You’ve probably heard it already. Just listen:

Bandai Namco / MrKaiser891 (YouTube)

If “Fantaisie-Impromptu” is a skill check, “Polonaise in A♭ major, Op. 53” is the final boss. The work is technically complex and physically demanding. It uses a wide range of keys, spanning nearly the whole of a standard piano keyboard. Performers have to juggle rapid octave scaling, speedy broken chords (chords played as individual notes), chords with really wide finger placement, and all sorts of tortuous finger movement. The result is a piece that Chopin’s long-time companion George Sand said should be a heroic symbol of the French Revolution. Indeed, despite Chopin’s reluctance to give his works proper names, historians and music scholars call this one “Heroic.”

Bandai Namco / MrKaiser891 (YouTube)

Frédéric François Chopin may be a weird focus for a fantasy role-playing game, but his music fits right in. Check out the game’s full soundtrack for more examples of his classic works and the modern tunes Motoi Sakuraba created to complement them.

And there you have it, a trio of video game tracks composed more than a century and a half before the game came out. Maybe next time I will share music from my second-favourite Chopin-themed video game.

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