Norway, home to Hakon and Mari Samuelsen must be a welcoming country if all its inhabitants are as generous as our two talented musicians. Indeed, Mari and Hakon spontaneously invited us to come to Liverpool to attend a part of the adventure Pas de Deux. And what an adventure!
Wednesday evening, we were invited to a rehearsal of the work composed by James Horner. The session lasted an hour in a Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, whose renovation was almost complete. Artistic Director Sandra Parr reassured us by confirming us that everything would be ready for the big premiere the following evening.
Members of the Philharmonic and conductor Vasily Petrenko are readying themselves when Mari and Hakon, deep in concentration, settle in to the left of the conductor. We take advantage of this preparation time to go meet the Maestro and establish a very pleasant first contact. James Horner, relaxed, takes a seat in the front row, facing the Norwegian musicians.
The session begins with a rehearsal of the last part of Pas de Deux which still requires some clarifications and fine tuning. For the dozen privileged listeners in the Hall, it's a shock. The grand finale of Pas de Deux is truly spectacular and intense. Vasily Petrenko interrupts the process when a point of clarification is needed with the musicians. He calls James Horner to join him on the podium in order to get details about the score and its performance. Maestro remains humble and discreet. He does not impose himself, but just responds to Vasily and Mari and Hakon's requests. He is there to help rather than to control.
Then comes the performance of the double concerto in its entirety. A dreamlike piece where all the facets of the composer's music seem to come together. For those afraid they might not recognize James Horner’s colors and intimate orchestrations in this concert work, be reassured that his music and style are present. Pas de Deux breathes James Horner's music, it is its very essence. Everything we have found beautiful for 35 years in his music seems summarized, concentrated here in this 30-minute piece that blends the familiar colors of the 80s and those from the following decades. Bucolic, impressionistic and exquisite music, transcended by two exceptional soloists, Pas de Deux is a singular piece in the world of concert music. A breath of fresh air, an unforgettable experience.
After the session, we are invited to a dinner during which we talked a lot with the sound engineer Simon Rhodes. He shared with us some interesting details of his long collaboration with James Horner, his transition from recording classical works to film music, his own musical affinities (English music, choral music). He even disclosed the title of the next album by James Horner that will be re-released by Intrada.
At the very end of the evening, an appointment was made with Mari and Hakon Samuelsen for a morning interview about Pas de Deux.
Just after breakfast, Mari and Hakon Samuelsen spent with us probably the only free time they had on the day of the world premiere of Pas de Deux. They responded with a relaxed and open mind to our questions.
Read our interview with Hakon and Mari Samuelsen on page 2
James Horner then joined us.
Read our interview with James Horner, Hakon and Mari Samuelsen on page 3
After the departure of Mari and Hakon Samuelsen, who left to continue their work, the composer stayed with us until the end of the morning. We’ll publish soon a selection of some words that were exchanged.
The evening of the world premiere, the performance of Pas de Deux was a thing a beauty. During the 27 minutes of the double concerto, we could sense the audience’s positive reaction to this new concert work. James Horner was lengthily acclaimed during his appearance; there was nearly a standing ovation.
In this short video, you can watch for Mari and Hakon Samuelsen going on stage and James Horner greeting the audience at the end of the concert.
The composer and the two soloists then joined us for a reception at the Hotel Bar for sharing new moments that definitely gave an exceptional and unforgettable character to this stay in Liverpool.
We’ll never be able to thank enough Hakon, Mari and James for their great kindness, accessibility, and the precious time they spent with us. These are three artists with exceptional generosity.
Dear readers, if we had one piece of advice for you, it would be this one: when the CD from Pas de Deux is released in spring 2015, run to buy it–you will not regret it.
Thanks to Mercury Classics / Universal Group for allowing us to publish their pictures.