Håkon Samuelsen / Mari Samuelsen

James Horner: Pas de Deux

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Pas de Deux is not a James Horner score for an unknown film but a freestanding composition, being billed as his first foray into classical music since the 1980s. Leaving aside the question of whether film scores qualify as classical music, it seems pretty clear that those who like Horner in general will like this work. Here and elsewhere, he does one thing well -- lush romanticism -- and does it very, very well. His economy of gesture, which makes one wonder why neutral arpeggios are having such an emotional impact, is fully in evidence here, and the configuration of forces, with lots to do for the two soloists, produces film score-like textures. The Norwegian violin-and-cello duo of Mari and Håkon Samuelson commissioned Pas de Deux, and though it is being promoted as the first major double concerto for violin and cello since Brahms, Horner himself has described the piece as a composition for violin and cello with orchestral accompaniment rather than as a true concerto. For all that, Pas de Deux does not really resemble Horner's film scores musically. It has elements that suggests what might have happened had Vaughan Williams somehow lived long enough to become enamored of minimalism, and it shows that Horner has been keenly aware of contemporary crossover directions. The work is performed here by the Samuelsens and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko, the forces that premiered the work in 2014, and it's safe to say that their work reflects the composer's intentions. The album is filled out with works by Arvo Pärt (the protean Fratres), Giovanni Sollima, and Ludovico Einaudi, whose Divenire also features the violin-cello combination. Horner can hold his own with any of them, and listeners who imagine sun-drenched meadows while listening to Pas de Deux will have a very good time with it.

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