Conductor Anthony Weeden On The Music Of James Horner

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The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra once more delivers a fitting tribute to movie music, this time with the compositions of Academy Award-winning composer, James Horner. Famous for his use of Celtic and electronic music, Horner’s scores include some of the highest-grossing films of all time.

Anthony Weeden

Leading the MPO for this unique concert is British conductor, Anthony Weeden who is set to transport audiences to the worlds of Star Trek, Titanic and Avatar. Ahead of this concert series, we spok to Weeden to discuss the compositions of Horner and why they have been so instrumental to the success of the films he has helped bring to life.

As a conductor, what would you consider as James Horner’s best composition and why?
I’ve always admired the music of James Horner since watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the cinema as an 8 year old. His music is extremely vivid, evocative, unrelentingly full of uniquely beautiful, soaring melodies, yet possesses a dramatic sensitivity for film only a few composers have achieved. It’s difficult to choose just one score as his “best” but more recently, I have discovered a piece called ‘Flight’ (originally titled Write Your Soul) – one of Horner’s last scores, written for The Horsemen Flight Team with whom he sometimes flew. It’s a very personal score that not only demonstrates his masterful compositional talents but it is a rare example that reveals the man behind the music unrestricted by the usual parameters of writing to film, and, perhaps most potently, it captures his very personal love of flying aeroplanes and the essence of being airborne.

In your opinion, where would you rank Horner on the list of the greatest film composers of all time?
There are so many complex parameters throughout the creative process of composing a film score that aren’t clear in the final result, which makes a sound judgement particularly difficult to arrive at. That said, each era of film history produced legendary composers, and of James Horner’s era there are only few that would probably make it on to a fantasy list of the “greatest”. James Horner, John Williams, Gerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfman and James Newton Howard would all appear on mine.

What is your personal favourite piece of music from the composer?
I have always loved The Rocketeer – a fabulous score that is often undervalued but because of his personal connection to ‘Flight’, this is currently my favourite James Horner score. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

From his list of music, did Horner prefer to favour specific sections of the orchestra or a particular instrument in his compositions?
Horner was a complete master of orchestration including that of voices – his use of solo voice and solo folk whistles are particularly prevalent throughout his scores, for example in Braveheart, Willow, Titanic and Avatar. But I particularly enjoy his writing for the French Horn. He was a violin player but really understood how to write for the French Horn – something not common to all composers – with those high soaring lines such as in Titanic and Iris. In 2015, he wrote a concert piece for 4 French Horns and Orchestra called ‘Collage’ for the London Philharmonic Orchestra which also demonstrates this lovely Horn writing, rarely heard in film scores today.

What piece of music from Horner are you looking forward to conduct with the MPO during this concert?
You can probably guess, but I’m very much looking forward to performing ‘Flight’ as we’re performing it ‘live’ with a film of The Horsemen Flight Team including footage from the original recording session. It will be exhilarating to be a part of! But although I could never claim to be a true Trekkie, I’m secretly very excited about being transported back to my childhood to perform Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan!

Catch Anthony Weeden lead the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) in a tribute to iconic Hollywood film composer, James Horner, on Saturday, 25 May 2019 and Sunday, 26 May 2019 at 3.00 pm at Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS, KLCC. For ticketing details log on to mpo.com.my

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