Hollywood in Vienna: The World of James Horner

There's an unmistakable air of melancholy that hangs over Hollywood in Vienna: The World of James Horner, a tribute concert celebrating the work of one of the world's finest film composers. The concert was recorded in 2013 at the Hollywood in Vienna film music gala, where Horner was presented with the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award.The camera cuts to Horner regularly throughout the concert, and we often see him weeping tears of joy as conductor David Newman and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra take him on a musical tour of his career. Less than two years later, the composer would be killed in a plane crash. Knowing what's just around the corner, there's something comforting about watching Horner during one of the more joyful moments of his life.

While the majority of the 90-minute concert is devoted to Horner's work, the first half-hour spotlights a handful of other memorable film music themes. Dubbed “On to New Worlds,” this section of the concert features pieces from a handful of sci-fi and fantasy films: a suite of music from various Star Trek films and TV shows, another suite from David Arnold's Independence Day, the main themes from John Williams' A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Michael Nyman's Gattaca, plus Steven Bramson's Space Mountain theme (not really film music, but hey, it's close enough).

These pieces more or less set the tone for the hour of Horner music that follows, as the concert leans heavily on sweeping, inspirational, melodic pieces. Things kick off with Horner's instantly recognizable “Universal Fanfare” before the orchestra delivers a thrilling performance of a suite from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (which was left out of the previous Star Trek suite). A “Horner Medley” offers brief highlights from Willow, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Aliens, The Mask of Zorro and The Rocketeer, while Braveheart, Titanic, Legends of the Fall and Avatar are given full-length suites.

The only underwhelming selections are the two pop song performances: “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail and “If We Hold On Together” from The Land Before Time. The songs certainly aren't bad, but the drippy adult-contemporary pop arrangements are a lot less interesting than than the (excellent) scores written for those films.

Horner's acceptance speech is brief and humble, and he expresses his delight at being able to attend an event where, “I knew I was going to win.” As on so many other occasions throughout the concert, he seems overwhelmed with emotion, and declares the evening to be the most memorable night of his life. The Blu-ray release features a superb interview with Horner (recorded a couple of days before the event), where he says that he's always assumed that no one other than people in the industry really cared about film music (he even makes the assumption that most of the people attending the festival are either composers or filmmakers). I hope this concert helped him realize just how much his work meant to people.


Hollywood in Vienna: The World of James Horner

Rating: ★★★ (out of four)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 93 minutes
Release Year: 2016