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Interview with WDR Radio Orchestra Manager Winfried Fechner Part 2 (March 2010)

Winfried Fechner

Winfried Fechner has been the manager of the WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne for five years. Last week, he exclusively spoke to us about the history of the orchestra's participation in video game productions and exposed that the concert Symphonic Legends would be exclusively dedicated to Nintendo. He reveals even more about what lies ahead in the second part of his interview.

In this interview, Fechner reflects on the wonderful future ahead for the WDR Radio Orchestra's performances of video game music. He describes the arrangements of Symphonic Fantasies, discusses several classical-game crossover concerts, reveals the Symphonic Fantasies album release, and, perhaps most excitingly, announces the orchestra's fourth video game concert Symphonic Odysseys will occur in July 2011.

Interview Credits

Interview Subject: Winfried Fechner
Interviewer: Chris Greening
Editor: Chris Greening
Coordination: Thomas Boecker

Chris: Thank you for agreeing to talk to us about the WDR Radio Orchestra's upcoming productions. Now that you've revealed to us the concept of Symphonic Legends, could you tell us more about what to expect from the arrangements for the concert. Is Jonne Valtonen involved in arranging the music for the concert again, as he did for your previous concerts?

Winfried Fechner: Yes, Jonne Valtonen is the main arranger of the concert. I am also very happy to announce that three famous Japanese guest arrangers will join us this year, including Shiro Hamaguchi, Hayato Matsuo, and... one surprise!

Super Mario Bros. 3

Jonne Valtonen is also the composer of the official opening fanfare that will be recorded this week at the Philharmonic Hall in Cologne, performed by the WDR Radio Orchestra, conducted by Eckehard Stier. Fans of video game music might know the conductor's name from the drammatica album. We are planning to make a video of the official opening fanfare available at our official website soon.

The original composition is entitled Fanfare for the Common 8-bit Hero.

Chris: Next to these three, are there other known faces from the concert series expected to be a part of Symphonic Legends?

Winfried Fechner: Yes, Benyamin Nuss who will join us again as a pianist. His performances include the newly announced fanfare. Of course, percussionist Rony Barrak, who has been with us since the very first concert in 2008, will perform too.

As for new faces, the concert will be directed by Swedish conductor Niklas Willén, who is the new chief conductor of the WDR Radio Orchestra. It will be his first concert featuring video game music, and it is going to be a special treat; after all, Niklas Willén is a sound wizard and, at the same time, one of the biggest fans of video game music!

Additionally we invited the State Choir Latvija from Riga. Movie music fans might know these singers from recordings such as for the Perfume movie that they performed in conjunction with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Chris: The WDR Radio Orchestra plan to reaffirm their love for video game concerts with some classical-game crossover concerts in the future. Could you elaborate on this concept?

Winfried Fechner: I am confident that if video game music will keep its high quality, the WDR Radio Orchestra will be the first ensemble to bring video game music into its regular concert repertoire. We actually initially performed video game music in such a crossover concert, PROMS: That's Sound, That's Rhythm, back in 2008. Music from Final Fantasy VIII, Shenmue, and Symphonic Shades was performed alongside popular classical works.

We're now aiming to offer such concerts on a more regular basis. A step into that direction was the performance of a piece for full strings — the Secret of Mana main theme — in an arrangement by Jonne Valtonen. It was a part of our spring concert on March 7, 2010. Video game music was presented together with classics from Strauss and Vivaldi. It was such a great success that it will be performed again at my concert Einstand, Ausklang in July. I think it makes great sense, because it was the piece that impressed me the most when I attended the Fifth Symphonic Game Music Concert in Leipzig in 2007.

Secret of Mana

Chris: Mr Fechner, now that you have mentioned that video game music will remain a major part of the WDR's repertoire, could you please tell us something about the 2011 concert already?

Winfried Fechner: My pleasure: On July 9, 2011 we will present Symphonic Odysseys - Uematsu in Concert at the Philharmonic Hall in Cologne. The concert will be dedicated to the work of Nobuo Uematsu exclusively. I recommend to check the newly opened official website from time to time here. In conjunction with SEMO's successor, here we will announce details about the concert program and ticket sales first, probably at the end of the year.

I am sure that I am not revealing too much by saying that Nobuo Uematsu is very excited about the concert. In fact, Nobuo Uematsu was always dreaming about such an event dedicated to his career. We will do that and present arrangements that are exclusively written for us, with Jonne Valtonen being our main arranger again. It will be our fourth fantastic concert entirely dedicated to video game music.

Chris: With all these concerts, do you think you can change the opinion of classically-oriented musicians who tend to deny the musical qualities of film and video game scores?

Winfried Fechner: I tell you: I gave the Symphonic Shades CD to several conductors, managers and singers. The feedback included quotes such as: "I already listened five times to it", "I am listening to it in my car all time", "I would love to perform video game music together with the WDR", or "Please invite me to the next concert!"

All comments which are a proof of the quality of the music. The music is fascinating, the music is inspiring, the music wakes the interest of older people, too. This shows that this music has a future!

Chris: On that note, last but not least: Do you think there will be a chance for you to give out Symphonic Fantasies CDs one day, too?

Winfried Fechner: Yes. We are working on a CD release as we speak — an album based on the live concert at the Philharmonic Hall in Cologne. We invested a good amount of time into the fine-tuning and we are very proud of the results. The music was edited and mixed at the WDR Studios and is going to be mastered at a prestigious European studio. Expect an announcement with further details during the next few weeks.

All composers and arrangers listened to the music and gave their approvals. They are very happy, too. Jonne Valtonen even came to Cologne for a few days to attend the first mixing sessions to provide his feedback. We left nothing to chance. We never do.

Lost Odyssey

Chris: Finally, you announced that you will retire from your job as the manager of the WDR Radio Orchestra this year. What does that mean for the future of video game music at the WDR that you just mentioned? Thank you so much for your time and revelations.

Winfried Fechner: The next manager of the WDR Radio Orchestra will continue doing video game music concerts. We are even planning to do two concerts per season. Symphonic Legends in September 2010 followed by Symphonic Odysseys in July 2011 is the first example of this approach.

This is the second part in a two part interview with Winfried Fechner. The first part of the interview offered insight into the history of the WDR's video game productions and announced that Symphonic Legends would be a Nintendo-only concert. Symphonic Legends will occur at the Cologne Philharmonic Hall on September 23, 2010 and Symphonic Odysseys will follow on July 9, 2011. Thank you to Thomas Boecker for organising this interview and Winfried Fechner for his participation.