“The World of James Horner” Blu-ray a Fitting Tribute to Star Trek II and III Composer’s 30-Year Career

Grieving over the tragic news one year ago of the untimely death of Star Trek II and III composer James Horner, fans of the musician poured onto social media to celebrate, lament and share stories of the famed composer. One of those fans just happened to be Varèse Sarabande’s Robert Townson, who as luck would have it, was able to share a very special career moment in 2013 with Horner at the Hollywood in Vienna concert. While commiserating with fans online, Townson noticed the one sliver of sunshine for everyone was his posts about the concert itself and time he spent with Horner. Thus was born, Hollywood in Vienna: The World of James Horner project.

Townson was in a unique position to produce the Blu-ray concert, as he’s done the same for over 1,300 film scores and concerts throughout his career. While he only knew Horner as a professional colleague, Townson was as touched by his music as everyone else and jumped at the opportunity to conduct a symposium with Horner on his creative process and career while in Vienna, in the very same auditorium that his Academy Award winning father Harry Horner worked.

“It was a lovely opportunity and one I cherish now,” Townson explained. “It was the first time he had heard a concert of his film music in a concert hall. One of the services this concert and new Blu-ray give is an almost kind of cathartic experience. Fans get to see James himself reacting to hearing his music performed in a concert hall and experiencing what his music meant to people.”

“He was so moved by it,” Townson continued. “The moments throughout the concert, where the camera cut to James experiencing this for the first time, he was tearing up. Seeing that now in light of the tragic events that unfolded is very comforting to people. To whatever degree he knew his work was important before this, in this setting the degree of his extraordinary contribution to the world of music was truly irrefutable.”


The 17-track concert Blu-ray, conducted by David Newman, features a track titled “Star Trek Suite” as well as Horner’s memorable “End Titles” to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and other films including Braveheart, Avatar, Titanic, Legends of the Fall and more. In addition, the organizers, including Hollywood In Vienna Director Dr. Sandra Tomek presented Horner with the Max Steiner Film Achievement Award. His moving acceptance speech as well as the above symposium are also included on the Blu-ray release.

“In his speech, he said it was the most important moment of his life, when he received the Max Steiner Award, with the audience cheering on their feet,” Townson added.

Solitary as so many composers are, sitting alone in quiet rooms, writing music and playing the piano, the notoriously shy Horner always turned down previous invitations to attend concerts or offers of his music being played live. However, when he was approached in 2013, he decided to attend the special event in his honor, which gave him an opportunity to pilgrimage to where his father’s professional career began with Max Reinhardt.

Providing organizers and fans with a rare opportunity to celebrate Horner’s career, the concert allowed a fitting tribute to his work that spanned three decades, beginning with The Hand in 1981 and prematurely ending with his final feature films in 2015, Wolf Totum, Southpaw and The 33. In between, Horner also wrote film scores for memorable movies such as Cocoon, Field of Dreams, Glory, The Rocketeer, Patriot Games, Apollo 13, and Titanic (for which he won the 1998 Academy Award for Best Score and Best Original Song).

Tabbed by Nicholas Meyer to write the score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the then 27-year old composer only had seven previous credits to his name at that point. Dreaming of becoming a classical composer, Horner actually looked down on a career in film scoring; all of which changed with Wrath of Khan. Meyer wanted to distance this new film from the previous Star Trek: The Most Picture, which also meant not reusing any of Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic music from the movie.

“The film needed a powerful score,” Horner explained to Starlog Magazine’s Tom Sciacca in 1982. “The score is designed to help create a feeling of tremendous speed and power for the Enterprise.”

“Spock never had a theme before, and I wanted to give him a theme to tie the whole of Genesis and Spock by the end of the film,” Horner added, “so that it would all mean something. The theme for Spock, incidentally, is actually heard at the Leaving Drydock sequence.”

Unique in its own way, rather than being compared to the incomparable Goldsmith score, fans embraced Horner’s music for Star Trek II, which would take its proper place as one of the film series more indelible scores. The composer even has a brief cameo in the film, as a cadet walking the corridors and preparing the Enterprise for its final confrontation with Khan.

Joining the production of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Horner believed his Star Trek II gig to be a one-time journey to The Final Frontier. But as fans know all too well now, The Wrath of Khan truly kicked off Star Trek’s second life.

“Initially when I was doing Star Trek II there was no Star Trek III,” Horner shared in a 2010 Wrath of Khan Blu-ray featurette interview. “Star Trek III got formulated somewhere along the end while we were doing it. I had to change the end of Star Trek II musically, and they changed the cut so that it merged into the beginning of Star Trek III, and it actually held me in very good stead. Star Trek II was really to me, an emotional story between Kirk and Spock and that really paid off in a big way obviously in the next movie. I always look for those types of things in the films I do. It’s like a trademark of my writing.”

Luckily for fans, his music still lives on, and there is so many varied and unique scores for listeners to choose from throughout his career; from sweeping epics to period pieces to dramatic stories and light features. And now fans can also experience the once in a lifetime event that occurred in 2013 with the Hollywood in Vienna concert thanks to Townson.

“I’m so happy to have the opportunity to make this tribute to James Horner available as a Blu-ray. It was moving for me, it was moving for him and I know how exciting it is to his fans around the world to be able to experience the concert,” Townson concluded. “This seemed to be the only light coming through all the sadness (at the time of Horner’s death). The comments people were making about the concert, how much it meant to them how happy James was at this concert, how much it meant to them to see him being appreciated, and how much it all meant to him. So many people wished they could have been there. I am really thrilled to now be able to share this very special event and celebration of James with his fans around the world. I couldn’t be happier how it all turned out.”


Hollywood in Vienna: The World of James Horner is now available at Varèse Sarabande’s website and sells on Amazon for $22.99.

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As I was reading this article, the track “Genesis Countdown” from STII starting playing in my head. My all-time favorite ST soundtrack cue. RIP Mr. Horner, we miss you.

I bought this as soon as it came out,be prepared to go through an emotional roller coaster ride while watching this. It is absolutely extraordinary. The music, the man, you’ll be swept away by watching this Blu-Ray. To hear his music,and watch him react as the orchestra plays his scores is amazing, Horner had not heard some of these scores since composing them. Enough extras on the disc to make any fan very happy….and very sad that he’s no longer with us. On a scale of 1-10 I’d rate this a 15. There is a great deal of joy in this presentation you will not be disappointed.

@Cafe 5

Agreed! I got this Blu-Ray disc last month and it’s wonderful. And as much as I love his two ST scores (especially the amazing TSFS track “Returning to Vulcan”), I’ve grown to love his quieter, more sensitive scores, like The Life Before Her Eyes, for example. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5tP4CKlkPY

James Horner wrote so much film music, it wasn’t until after his death that I started to look at his discography, and was completely blown away by the shear volume of what he had composed. I’m looking forward to “The Magnificent 7” his last film score. Mr. Horner hand wrote his scores and referred to himself as a pencil for hire,he was far more than that, he was the emotional underpinning for all the films he scored..This leaves us with an incredible legacy of his work. He is missed…but he will always be remembered for who he was and his music.

Absolutely. James Horner is my favorite composer of the past 35 years. His ability to move one emotionally with his music is a rare and special thing. Whether in films, or on their own separate from them. I must have 50 CDs of James Horner’s music.

NPR had an interview with Antoine Fuqua, the director of The Magnificent Seven, telling how after James Horner’s death, the written score for this film was hand-delivered by his associates; it was written based on the screenplay alone! He also mentioned that in 2015, James Horner *gave* him the score no charge to the film Southpaw. Mr. Horner appreciated that film because it was a father-daughter story; and he had daughters of his own. Pretty amazing.

I was playing “Returning to Vulcan” when I got the call from the VA hospital that my much beloved father had just died. In the 24 years since dad “returned to Vulcan” I think of him first, then Star Trek III. Another reason why it’s my favorite ST film and score… Too many sci-fi films (and scores) lack sensitivity and sentimentalism, much to their detriment and disservice.

Such a talent. Sad that he left us too soon.

Personally, I consider his Apollo 13 score to be among his best works.

I just wish they’d release a full, double-disc version of the Apollo 13 score. The existing score leaves out a lot (i.e., the piece when the Apollo turns around to dock with the LM after launch). They did it for Wrath of Khan, now how about Apollo 13?

On the Apollo 13 1998 DVD main menu the whole score is on there from beginning to end, you could probably rip the audio file from it.

“Spock never had a theme before”

Well, I think he did in the show. I always thought that slow, thoughtful bass guitar riff in Amok Time and Journey to Babel was Spock’s theme. It was also played in the cellos too. Very effective. I thought it was really nice. I loved Horner’s stuff but I think it would have been nice to be able to use that also.

You gotta have the score to “Krull” in there. An Underrated movie with an underrated score!

@Prince of Helium
I included it into my requested YT mix, it comes up second, follow the URL, Krull struck a ‘chord’ in me when first released, it didn’t make sense, thought it was medieval, but then I remembered that old saying “any sufficiently advanced technology would appear indistinguishable from magic” Then it made sense the protagonist’s starship could have used gravitational fields for propulsion {like the cloud vampire from “Obsession”} the ‘hull’ a crystalline construct specifically made to endure the rigours of space. It also made sense that the natives of Krull may have access to similar techniques, Hence how Colwyn was able to eventually come to rule the Galaxy.
Liam Neeson was there to help kick some ass as well.

Damn Straight, an underrated movie, though I only have it on widescreen LaserDisc.

Wow, THANK YOU for posting this, Rich Schepis. I hadn’t heard of this before.

I’m SO BUYING THIS. LOVE his music – miss him dearly. And as a fellow pilot, he’s a brother as well.

Continue to RIP Mr. Horner…..composing your music in the heavens!

Treks 2 and 3 are my favorite soundtracks, definitely. I also like Cocoon, which has a very similar strain to the entering Spacedock cue from Trek 3.

If this doesn’t move you, I respectfully submit you’re not a Trek fan :)

Guess I am a Star Trek fan then!
I teared up a bit.
Still listening to it too.

…and my favourite “B” movie, “Battle Beyond The Stars” , itself a tribute movie because everyone involved
owed Roger Corman for getting them their start in Hollywood……and proof that you don’t always need a super budget to get things done when there’s creativity….

Wow – Krull and Battle Beyond the Stars! You and I like the same movies, Lone Browncoat! And the thing that inspired me in both of them as a child all those years ago was James Horner’s wonderful music.

Battle Beyond was the first sci-fi pic I saw at the cinema as a kid – I was thrilled to buy it on blu-ray (from Spain – they don’t have it here in the UK) last year and even more thrilled to hear the score again.

I spent many an hour as a youngster listening to the LPs of Trek 2 and 3 (and Horner’s Cocoon: The Return), gazing at the record sleeve and re-living the movie (we didn’t have VHS then). Nostalgic times…

For me, I love Horner’s Rocketeer score – a very under-rated movie.

Lone Browncoat and Captain johncbaron

Count me in.

If you listen to Horner’s BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS carefully, you’ll notice he bridges the music styles of TMP with what he eventually will evolve into TWOK.

And Captain johncbaron, I agree about THE ROCKETEER movie and score.

I wonder if they’ll put out a CD version of this album (like they did with the Jerry Goldsmith 80th Birthday Tribute Concert from Fimucité).