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Sharing releases, present and past, to brighten your day. WXXI Classical has its eyes and ears on the latest releases from classical artists working today. When we come across a story or a release we think you might enjoy, we’ll be sharing it with you on CD Spotlight. You’ll learn more about the artists online at WXXI Classical, and you’ll hear selections from these artists on FM 91.5. CD Spotlight shares new releases by artists that you’ll want to know and some by great artists and ensembles that deserve to be in the spotlight again.

CD Spotlight: Joe Hisaishi - A Symphonic Celebration

Animation and music have always had a close relationship, but it’s only recently that I heard it put explicitly by composer Mark Watters, who is director of the Beal Institute for Film Music and Contemporary Media at Eastman, that animation depends on music to fully give it life.

Here’s an experiment to try: watch some of your favorite animated movies or shows without the music. Does it change your perception? Wait…are you actually just still adding the music in your mind? Perhaps you need to find something animated that you don’t already know so well.

But before you go too far down that rabbit hole, I don’t want to lose track of what I started here: the latest CD Spotlight that you’ll be hearing on WXXI Classical is a symphonic celebration of the music of Joe Hisaishi, released earlier this year on Deutsche Grammophon.

If you’ve had your heart and your imagination captured by the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki (Kiki, Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle), you were also falling under the spell of Joe Hisaishi’s music. Their collaboration began with the 1984 film, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” and has continued through about a dozen movies, spanning close to 40 years.

Hisaishi speaks about his intense, years-long collaborations with Miyazaki on each of these films in a recent interview here:

I’ve been in love from first seeing “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” on a scratchy millionth-generation fan-subtitled VHS at a comic book store in high school, to experiencing “Princess Mononoke” when it made it to American theaters with English dubbing (in a translation by Neil Gaiman!), to a surprise encounter with a $1 screening of “My Neighbor Totoro” in Traverse City, Michigan while on vacation with my in-laws. And then I've caught others when I can, whether on the big or small screen.

I thought I had seen my last new Miyazaki film when I caught “The Wind Rises” at Tinseltown a few years ago, but the retirement that he announced at that time didn’t stick. He has made a new movie, with Joe Hisaishi writing the score: “The Boy and the Heron” is just about to be released. It will be at The Little in Rochester starting December 8th (with both dubbed and subbed options).

I suppose this has been short on details of this recording. I struggle to describe the dreamy, nostalgic, evocative, whimsical music without resulting to clichés, and it deserves better than that. Tune it to hear these recordings on the radio over the next couple weeks, cue up one of the films he scored for Miyazaki or others, and check out the album here. I only regret that I didn’t order the one with the bonus tracks…or one of those pretty pretty LP sets.

And then, who is up for a road trip? Toronto? Joe Hisaishi is conducting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in his music in a series of concerts June 20-22. They’re already close to sold out, but then his music will fill Madison Square Garden in NYC later in the summer.

Mona Seghatoleslami is the Music Director, host and producer on WXXI Classical 91.5 FM weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. She also hosts the lunchtime concert series Live From Hochstein Wednesdays at 12:10 p.m., interviews musicians, produces special programs, and works on any project she can find that helps connect people and music in our community through WXXI.