The following articles were written in May, shortly after the Nordic premiere of Pas de Deux in Stavanger. They have been left unaltered as a reminder of the bright and eventful time in the months preceding James Horner’s death, both for the musicians and fans alike. We also present here, our final interview with James Horner, conducted on the morning of May 14. 2015, together with Mari and Håkon Samuelsen.
A huge thank you to Mari Samuelsen, Håkon Samuelsen, Torodd Wigum, Eric Rigler and Clara Sanabras for your time and your kindness in talking with me for these interviews. Also a very special thank you to Mari, Håkon and Torodd for your generosity in welcoming me to attend the rehearsals prior to the concert.
I am forever grateful to you all.
Oslo, 28.07.15
Kim Spildrejorde


When listening to a piece of music, it is easy to be so immersed in the sounds and colors of the piece, that one forgets that behind each note is a talented musician. Each with his or her own interpretation, perspective and personality that when combined results in the magic that is good music.
Concerts are a great arena to remind oneself of this fact. Few things can be compared to seeing a full symphony orchestra on stage, performing as a single entity, conveying aural poetry with elegance and skill.
In Stavanger, on May 13, 2015, fans of James Horner had a unique opportunity to experience this magic. The composer’s mesmerizing double concerto for violin, cello and orchestra, Pas de Deux, was performed for the first time in the Nordic countries, and James Horner himself conducted suites from Braveheart, Wolf Totem and Titanic.
Joining Horner and the siblings, Mari and Håkon Samuelsen, was a world class team of musicians. The concert brought together regular collaborator Eric Rigler on tin whistle and Uilleann Pipes and soloist Clara Sanabras from For Greater Glory as well as the Titanic Live tour. Conducting Pas de Deux, as well as suites from Avatar, Legends of the Fall, and Aliens was renowned conductor Torodd Wigum.
We were fortunate enough to follow the preparations of this concert and got to spend a few minutes with each of these amazing musicians. From the very start, it was evident that this concert was going to be a huge success, and we wondered how they had got involved in this concert project:
Torodd Wigum: This is a fun story for me. I happened to be here in Stavanger working with the orchestra for a week last year. Just that week, a member of the orchestra administration told me he was going to Liverpool to hear the world premiere of a new piece written by James Horner, for two Norwegian soloists, as we now know.
I hadn´t heard about it, but thought it sounded exciting and heard he came back excited about the piece. Then around Christmas, I got in touch with Mari and Håkon, whom I hadn´t met before. We corresponded for a while and I was fortunate enough to be sent a copy of the score and an early copy of the recording of the piece. As I listened to the piece and read the score, I thought this was a piece I really wanted to conduct some time in my life.
Then I also knew it was to be premiered in Stavanger on 13 May 2015 and planned to attend the concert to hear the piece live, get a chance to meet Mari and Håkon and maybe even James Horner himself.
I then heard rumors that Horner was going to conduct the concert himself. Shortly after that, I got a call from the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra telling me that James Horner was going to conduct, but did not want to conduct the entire concert. So they needed a second conductor and wondered if I wanted to and had time. I had time, and wanted to do it, so here I am. It really is a dream come true for me to get the opportunity to work with Mari and Håkon on this piece and then the huge bonus of meeting James Horner and share the podium with him during this concert. Quite an adventure, for a freelance conductor!
Eric Rigler was already booked to do the Titanic Live concert in London, when he was asked to go to Norway for the Stavanger concert:
Eric Rigler: This was something that came up very late in the planning. I was scheduled to play at Royal Albert Hall, with Titanic Live and then we added me to the Lucerne-dates for May 1-3. But before I left America in April, James had passed my number along to the Samuelsens. So Mari called, and said “Would you like to come and play at a special night of music? James said he’d love to have you come play. We’re going to perform our double concerto, but will also be doing some of James’s film music.”
It was a little bit later than when I would’ve gone home to America, but I just planned a nice little holiday and went to Scotland to visit old friends where I used to live. I spent six or seven days there before coming here to Norway, and it’s been a great pleasure to be here. We’ve actually never done Braveheart together since we did the film, James and I, so it’s a real treat. I didn’t play on Avatar, but it’s been a lot of fun learning the parts, and crafting them into what they need to be. It’s been great!
Clara Sanabras also talked about how this concert came to be as an extension of her involvement with Titanic Live:
Clara Sanabras: I worked with James Horner three years ago on the soundtrack For Greater Glory, and we stayed in touch as it was a very special time when we worked together on that score. In the meantime, I was involved in a lot of different film projects, live to projection. I told him about me doing The Lord of The Rings, and he would always reply, so we were in touch. When this became a reality, he then contacted me asking if I wanted to do this half of the tour.
The main event of the concert was the Nordic premiere of Pas de Deux. The 27 minute piece takes us through several corners of the Horner musical universe and allows the listeners to bring their own images and emotions into the piece. But how would another musician characterize the piece? We asked Torodd Wigum:
Torodd Wigum: It has a very melodic expression, which Horner has also remarked himself, as well as the challenge of writing for the concert world and finding the musical language for the piece. It uses a tonal language, much like the pieces we know from his films.
It´s tonal and very listenable, has a great build-up and structure with long lines, slightly melancholic or meditative throughout, before a huge build-up to a tremendous finale. So it is both a very resounding piece but also very quiet and small, starting off very calmly with sparsely instrumented sections, before taking off towards the finale. The piece utilizes a big orchestra, with two pianos and six horns.
In addition to the double concerto, Wigum had to familiarize himself with the other pieces for the concert. It would require capturing the sweeping romantic moods of Legends of the Fall to the sheer terror of Aliens, with a healthy portion of exotic alien wildlife from Pandora on the way.
Torodd Wigum: In preparing for this, I didn´t watch any of the films again, but listened to the scores a lot. My ambition, when approaching working with these pieces and working with Horner personally was to get this done as close to his musical wishes as possible.
However I would very much like to watch the films again now. I did recently see Avatar with friends and family. A film that I of course don´t mind watching again.
We also talked about his relationship to James Horner’s music prior to this concert:
Torodd Wigum: I have to admit that, as with a lot of classical musicians, John Williams probably is the film composer I have listened to the most. So I wasn´t a Horner enthusiast going into this, but a very good friend of mine in Trondheim, a violinist and composer, also for film, has James Horner as his musical idol. He unfortunately didn’t get to attend this concert and told me he was right-out jealous! But of course, James Horner truly is one of the great film composers!
This was Torodd Wigum’s first time working with James Horner. For Eric Rigler and Clara Sanabras, the concert in Stavanger was another reunion with a composer they both have worked with in the past. For Eric Rigler this was also the first time performing Braveheart together with Horner since the recording sessions at Abbey Road, 20 years ago. We asked him if he had any favorite film among the five films he has done with Horner:
Eric Rigler: I definitely have to say Braveheart was my favorite experience. The music was amazing, but the whole experience of flying to London and recording at Abbey Road Studios. Mel Gibson was there with us, and the Beatles even walked in one day to meet him. That was very special, so the whole experience of being in London for a few weeks was just great.
But all the other movies as well were great experiences. Titanic, obviously, but we also had a great time recording The Devil’s Own. That was another nice score that James wrote. It’s always been fun.
From talking with Eric Rigler and Clara Sanabras it is clear that working with James Horner always has been associated with happy memories. While speaking with Clara Sanabras, we remarked how Horner seems to be very much a “musician’s composer” in that he lets the musicians bring their own perspective into their performance, something on which she agreed with us. We also asked her if working with Horner had changed her musical life:
Clara Sanabras: Yes, working with him was an absolute highlight. Of course, he is a big name, but it was beyond that for me, that experience. His generosity and simplicity as a person was what really made it so moving for me, as the kind of artist that I am, to take part in that project.
I asked him how he wanted me to sing, and he just told me to sing it from the heart. It was like we knew each other all our lives, if you know that feeling.
Both of these two performers have been involved with the ongoing Titanic Live tour. Eric Rigler performed at Royal Albert Hall as well as the concerts in May in Lucerne, while Clara Sanabras have performed at all subsequent concerts after Royal Albert Hall, taking over vocal duties from Sissel Kyrkjebø.
Rigler also performed on the actual score for Titanic. We asked him if he anticipated the success of the film:
Eric Rigler: I didn’t know how big it would be – the same with Braveheart, really. I had no idea how popular it had become. I thought Braveheart looked good when we recorded it. Titanic, I didn’t see much of at all during the recording, mainly just little bits and pieces that we recorded to. The first time I saw the film was in the cinema. But no, I did not expect both films to be as big as they were, but it was a lovely surprise. Also to see how much the music was loved, both Braveheart and Titanic, and of course My Heart Will Go On, which you could hear almost anywhere you went in the world.
Now, 18 years later, the film still affects audiences just as much as it did when first released. We have previously written about how captivating it was to revisit Titanic with the score performed live, and also spoke to Clara Sanabras about this.
Clara Sanabras: I think it really takes people by surprise, even though they know what they are coming to see, they are not at all sure what they are going to hear and what experience they are going to have. As a performer in it, you´re really given a power to communicate the fact that it is live, everybody knows the score and the tunes are familiar. But when the tune comes, it´s happening right there, so it´s an opportunity to channel the live energy of the band and the conductor and everyone involved to create something unique in the moment.
Eric Rigler also shared a little about being called to work on Troy, while still doing the recording for Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius. The few days between the recording sessions for the two films, while posing a daunting composing challenge for James Horner, with just days to write the score, gave Eric Rigler and Tony Hinnigan an opportunity to find some new instruments for the score:
Eric Rigler: While we were working on Bobby Jones, James said “Are you available next week? Because I would like to put you on Troy and use some ethnic instruments”. It was a big surprise, literally we went from one right into the next.
It was a lot of fun as well. We had a few days off between Bobby Jones and the beginning of Troy, and Tony Hinnigan and I were asked by James if we could collect some unusual world music instruments. So we took a nice road trip to San Francisco from Los Angeles and went to a very special specialized world music shop. Tony and I then just spent a couple of days there blowing on weird things, squeeking and squawking on things. It was so much fun and we ended up buying quite a few different things, got back to L.A, spent a few days learning how to play them and then recorded. It was a lot of fun!
This round of interviews was done just hours before the concert in Stavanger. The rehearsals had been ongoing for several days already, and the musicians had established a very good atmosphere between them all. They also spoke of how they would love to work with Horner again, and to do a similar concert in the future:
Torodd Wigum: I would gladly do something similar another time! I have done some film music concerts previously, with a lot of different music, and find the musical language to be fantastic. My dream is managing to repeat tonight´s concert some day in the future. At least at home in Trondheim with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra who I regularly work with, and also wherever else the opportunity would present itself.
Regarding Pas de Deux, very much is up to Mari and Håkon. I don´t know what their plans are, but I expect they will perform this piece regularly in the coming seasons. The world premiere was with a star conductor, Vasily Petrenko, so who knows, they might get to choose bigger names than a resident conductor from Trondheim in the time to come. I hope, however, to get to do this piece again some day.
Clara Sanabras: I would be very honored to work with him again. We have nothing specific on the horizon at the moment, but hopefully we can keep in touch and keep collaborating.
In closing, we wondered what they hoped for the audience to remember after leaving the concert.
Clara Sanabras: You know, there are moments in life when things come together, things you don´t take for granted. We also see so many films now a days with lots of special effects and everything, we are kind of desensitized to things. But I think an event like tonight, with Mari and Håkon and their collaboration with James and them wanting it to be a whole evening of James´s music, which I think wasn´t his first idea either. He wanted to be a small part of it, and now he´s here and I was lucky enough to be called for it. So just many things connected tonight. The audience don´t necessarily know that, but I hope they feel it when they come out.
Torodd Wigum: I guess a large part of the audience are here because of Horner and are extra interested in him and I think they will leave the concert very happy. They will get to see him conduct his own music, which he doesn´t do often, so this is a big event. I also think many of the orchestra´s more regular audience members also will be here and also experience a great evening. With so much beautiful music, it will be difficult not to enjoy the evening.
I also think it will be a very emotional night. Much of the music is very powerful and big, while other parts are small and intimate, even Aliens has parts that are very quiet and small. Finally, with Horner himself rounding off the evening, conducting Titanic with the youth choir, soloist, tin whistles and Uillean Pipes, I think it will be a magical moment in the Fartein Valen concert hall.
It was definitely a magical moment, and it should be clear to everyone who attended the concert, how fortunate they were to experience this constellation of talented musicians live on stage in Stavanger, Norway.
Special thanks to: Clara Sanabras, Eric Rigler and Torodd Wigum

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