We all usher in the New Year - and bid farewell to the Old Year - in different manner. Most of those around me take to celebrating the event with drink in one hand, a certain measure of revelry, noise-making, other gleeful gestures on the other. It's appropriate. It's the one day out of the year you can make noise at midnight and find your neighbors joining in.
I go the other way. It's almost always a time when I go dark, so to speak, for an hour or so and find a piece of music to reflect upon in solitude. Not to be confused with misery, nor to be confused with joy. Just some time alone with music. Something with meaning. This time, my reflection was upon the most significant musical event that happened for me. Actually, it happened to us all, not me personally. And I'm sure in the greater scheme of world events of 2015, this is rather small. But it matters. And it was where my thoughts were earlier tonight as the clock struck midnight.
James Horner. The piece of music: Pas De Deux, the lengthy Double Concerto For Violin, Cello And Orchestra that Horner was commissioned to write after meeting with the world famous sibling musicians Mari & Hakon Samuelsen, violinist and cellist respectively. Being fans of his film music, the duo from Norway hoped and prayed they could get Horner to personally compose a significant full-blown concerto for them. He did. The three-movement work was completed in 2014 and recorded with the two soloists joined by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Horner brought in his longtime friend Simon Rhodes to engineer the sessions. And an incredibly moving, heartfelt and accomplished concert piece was born.
The work is richly drawn and instantly the work of Horner. His indelible harmonic vernacular is on display from first bar to last. With eyes closed one can immediately "see" the cinematic universe that Horner lived in. Those ever-shifting chords that move from major to minor and back again, the yearning lines for French horn, the swelling crescendoes in combined strings… and the priceless sound of solo violin and solo cello melding with full orchestra into one incomparable timbre. Just beautiful. Movement one launches much of the harmonic language and solo material, then effortlessly melts into the second - and longest - movement. Melodic lines both intimate and soaring have their say. And finally, with a crash of percussion, movement three takes command. Even the closing bars speak of that movie world Horner lived within - and sadly, nay, shockingly left behind this last year.
It was this music that I dissolved into for an hour, thinking about the many film scores James Horner had written, the several classics that Intrada was privileged to be involved with and, for this changing of years, the masterful Concerto For Violin, Cello And Orchestra he left for us to enjoy.
A final footlight about this emotional album, available on the Mercury Classics label. In the liner notes, written after the November 2014 sessions and album production duties had been completed, we learn that Horner first came to meet the two soloists and listen to them play in private at the home of Norwegian film director Harald Zwart, who had engaged Horner back in 2010 to score his movie The Karate Kid. In one of the most portentous happenings one could imagine, we learn that this meeting almost didn't happen. The reason: James Horner, an accomplished pilot, was having difficulties in landing his plane.
How precious that makes this moving and eloquent concert piece be.