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The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: San Antone on May 15, 2015, 11:54:38 AM

Title: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 15, 2015, 11:54:38 AM
There was no thread devoted to Stephen Sondheim, so here goes.

I think Pacific Overtures is my favorite.

Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Ken B on May 15, 2015, 12:15:54 PM
There was no thread devoted to Stephen Sondheim, so here goes.

I think Pacific Overtures is my favorite.

Sweeney Todd. Which might be the greatest opera/musical. It works dramatically in a way few do.

A Little Night Music is thoroughly brilliant. A Little Death is Sondheim's greatest song.

The rest is just mixed. Forum is a lot of fun but thin musically. Follies has a lot of remarkable songs but fails as a show. Park and Woods have good moments, but those moments sound like Todd. Overtures has good stuff, and the tree house song is brilliant, but I cannot rate it overall in the same league as his two best. On the other hand I have only heard not seen.

It might be unfair, since I do credit Sondheim with writing a better opera than Beethoven or Stravinsky after all, but I don't think he reached his potential. I think his potential was greater than that of any American composer.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 15, 2015, 12:54:19 PM
I hold him in higher regard than you, Ken - but I take your points.  I was lucky enough to have been living in NYC when many of his greatest works were on Broadway, I've seen most with either original casts or revival NY productions.  NY City Opera (when it was thriving) did a couple.  They all have their merits, Company is a sentimental favorite since I worked on a (good) regional production as part of the light crew.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Ken B on May 15, 2015, 01:09:45 PM
I hold him in higher regard than you, Ken - but I take your points.  I was lucky enough to have been living in NYC when many of his greatest works were on Broadway, I've seen most with either original casts or revival NY productions.  NY City Opera (when it was thriving) did a couple.  They all have their merits, Company is a sentimental favorite since I worked on a (good) regional production as part of the light crew.
Tunick's orchestration for that is maybe the most brilliant he's ever done. I don't always like it, but it fits perfectly.
That's another score with great songs that doesn't quite work as a show I think.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 18, 2015, 09:29:34 AM
Since this thread is not generating much traffic, as the originator I will perform a modest about of curating.

Sondheim's parents divorced and he was sent to a variety of boarding schools, the last being the George School, where he wrote his first musical By George.  When Sondheim was about ten years old (around the time of his parents' divorce) he became friends with James Hammerstein, son of lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II. Hammerstein became Sondheim's surrogate father and ended up cultivating Sondheim's love of musical theater.

Quote
The comic musical he wrote at George School, By George, was a success among his peers and buoyed the young songwriter's ego. When Sondheim asked Hammerstein to evaluate it as though he had no knowledge of its author, he said it was the worst thing he had ever seen: "But if you want to know why it's terrible, I'll tell you". They spent the rest of the day going over the musical, and Sondheim later said: "In that afternoon I learned more about songwriting and the musical theater than most people learn in a lifetime."

I consider Sondheim a master craftsman, which is obvious from his lyrics, but after spending some time with his music, the same craftsmanship shines forth.  A lover of puzzles of all kinds, Sondheim puts his shows together with a meticulous care for their formal aspects much like creating and solving a puzzle.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Rons_talking on May 20, 2015, 02:07:55 AM
Since this thread is not generating much traffic, as the originator I will perform a modest about of curating.

Sondheim's parents divorced and he was sent to a variety of boarding schools, the last being the George School, where he wrote his first musical By George.  When Sondheim was about ten years old (around the time of his parents' divorce) he became friends with James Hammerstein, son of lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II. Hammerstein became Sondheim's surrogate father and ended up cultivating Sondheim's love of musical theater.

I consider Sondheim a master craftsman, which is obvious from his lyrics, but after spending some time with his music, the same craftsmanship shines forth.  A lover of puzzles of all kinds, Sondheim puts his shows together with a meticulous care for their formal aspects much like creating and solving a puzzle.

I have great repect for Sondheim's work. Sunday in the Park is my favorite though I've not heard anything he wrote since 1990. His music and lyrics , like those of Cole Porter, fit perfectly. He is a rare breed as a composer who is a great lyricist in something other than pop music, and I do consider him a composer more than a songwriter. I do believe that his brief studies with Milton Babbit do show in the layering of his music. He atrikes me as a puzzle guy as well...
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Luke on May 20, 2015, 02:54:07 AM
The Babbitt point is well made, and one I'm pondering every day atm. I'm doing Into the Woods  with my school (i.e. I am music director) and it is quite incredible to see 10 year olds tackling songs like Your Fault with such panache, aplomb and accuracy!. I was terrified of taking on this musical when it was first proposed - how on earth are we going to manage it, I thought, have any of you drama teachers got any idea at all what a complex monster of a score you are wanting to attempt? But to my joy I was wrong, badly wrong, and I found that out straight from the first rehearsal. Part of that is simple: kids can handle anything you put in front of them, and if you set them a high standard, they will reach it. But another part is: this music is incredible, and the kids know it, they can feel in their bones even if they can't find the words to describe why the feel it - I can just tell as I watch them rehearse. I've never seen anything like it. They love it, they are fired up by it in a way I've never seen in year after year after year of doing this sort of production. And that, I think, is because quality will out, and what the kids are responding to, whether they know it or not, is the sheer depth in the score, the thorough-going motivic writing, the tightness, the leanness, the ridiculously complex (for a musical) harmonies and rhythms which sound so natural and effortless because they are derived so strongly from the basic materials. It's actually rather reaffirmed my faith in things, in the human ability to sense this stuff when it is put before them, and in the rightness of continuing to try to create music with this sort of quality...  :)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 20, 2015, 03:08:57 AM
I have great repect for Sondheim's work. Sunday in the Park is my favorite though I've not heard anything he wrote since 1990. His music and lyrics , like those of Cole Porter, fit perfectly. He is a rare breed as a composer who is a great lyricist in something other than pop music, and I do consider him a composer more than a songwriter. I do believe that his brief studies with Milton Babbit do show in the layering of his music. He atrikes me as a puzzle guy as well...

You should really seek out the more recent work.   Road Show is one I didn't know even existed since I too have not actively sought out what Sondheim has done since the 1990s.  The score is available in two iterations, but recorded as xcast albums, the other is called Bounce.  But both shows were generated from the same idea of a show.  I don't know if you've heard Assassins, but it is even available opn YouTube in a complete production. 

I agree his studies with Babbott no doubt reinforced this aspect of puzzle-building/solving in Sondheim, but for me, one of the most interesting things to learn (about Babbitt) from Sondheim's studies with him was that Babbitt had always really wanted to write a Broadway show, and even left behind some show tunes - not serial, conventional Cole Porter-ish songs.

 ;)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Rons_talking on May 20, 2015, 03:18:41 AM
Road Show is one I didn't know even existed since I too have not actively sought out what Sondheim has done since the 1990s.  The score is available in two iterations, but recorded as xcast albums, the other is called Bounce.  But both shows were generated from the same idea of a show.  I don't know if you've heard Assassins, but it is even available opn YouTube in a complete production. 

I'll do that!
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on May 20, 2015, 03:24:35 AM
The Babbitt point is well made, and one I'm pondering every day atm. I'm doing Into the Woods  with my school (i.e. I am music director) and it is quite incredible to see 10 year olds tackling songs like Your Fault with such panache, aplomb and accuracy!. I was terrified of taking on this musical when it was first proposed - how on earth are we going to manage it, I thought, have any of you drama teachers got any idea at all what a complex monster of a score you are wanting to attempt? But to my joy I was wrong, badly wrong, and I found that out straight from the first rehearsal. Part of that is simple: kids can handle anything you put in front of them, and if you set them a high standard, they will reach it. But another part is: this music is incredible, and the kids know it, they can feel in their bones even if they can't find the words to describe why the feel it - I can just tell as I watch them rehearse. I've never seen anything like it. They love it, they are fired up by it in a way I've never seen in year after year after year of doing this sort of production. And that, I think, is because quality will out, and what the kids are responding to, whether they know it or not, is the sheer depth in the score, the thorough-going motivic writing, the tightness, the leanness, the ridiculously complex (for a musical) harmonies and rhythms which sound so natural and effortless because they are derived so strongly from the basic materials. It's actually rather reaffirmed my faith in things, in the human ability to sense this stuff when it is put before them, and in the rightness of continuing to try to create music with this sort of quality...  :)

You told me of that earlier, but I love reading such a great story again!
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 20, 2015, 03:32:24 AM
Into the woods is a great show to do with kids.  And it is nice to hear that the inherent quality of the work overrides any technical difficulties it might present.

 :)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Luke on May 20, 2015, 04:28:38 AM
Not so much overrides as pulls the kids through the difficulties - they aren't difficulties, really, despite appearances, if the underlying quality makes them disappear. Amazing!
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on May 20, 2015, 05:04:40 AM
Not so much overrides as pulls the kids through the difficulties - they aren't difficulties, really, despite appearances, if the underlying quality makes them disappear. Amazing!

That reminds me of a line from Terry Eagleton's Saints & Scholars, to the effect of A man under an anæsthetic is not a man who is in pain, but does not know it, but simply a man who is not in pain  8)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 20, 2015, 05:32:12 AM
The Babbitt point is well made, and one I'm pondering every day atm. I'm doing Into the Woods  with my school (i.e. I am music director) and it is quite incredible to see 10 year olds tackling songs like Your Fault with such panache, aplomb and accuracy!. I was terrified of taking on this musical when it was first proposed - how on earth are we going to manage it, I thought, have any of you drama teachers got any idea at all what a complex monster of a score you are wanting to attempt? But to my joy I was wrong, badly wrong, and I found that out straight from the first rehearsal. Part of that is simple: kids can handle anything you put in front of them, and if you set them a high standard, they will reach it. But another part is: this music is incredible, and the kids know it, they can feel in their bones even if they can't find the words to describe why the feel it - I can just tell as I watch them rehearse. I've never seen anything like it. They love it, they are fired up by it in a way I've never seen in year after year after year of doing this sort of production. And that, I think, is because quality will out, and what the kids are responding to, whether they know it or not, is the sheer depth in the score, the thorough-going motivic writing, the tightness, the leanness, the ridiculously complex (for a musical) harmonies and rhythms which sound so natural and effortless because they are derived so strongly from the basic materials. It's actually rather reaffirmed my faith in things, in the human ability to sense this stuff when it is put before them, and in the rightness of continuing to try to create music with this sort of quality...  :)
I think the first half of Into the Woods (musical) is about as good as it gets when it comes to this sort of thing. The second half doesn't have quite the tightness of the first half, though is still pretty good. But the first half, in particular, is sooooo GOOD. The way the music, spoken dialog and lyrics flow is just amazing. And it is so real for today (and I imagine for years to come), because it deals with so many different fears and hopes. And all of that is wrapped in an idea that is just so clever (and so familiar to almost all of us - most everyone knows these stories)! And as you say, there are just so many layers to it. And each character has their own demons/challenge that they need to overcome and the way the different journeys interact and change the course of the others...Anyway, I find it bears watching and listening repeatedly very well.

Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 20, 2015, 05:41:00 AM
Road Show is one I didn't know even existed since I too have not actively sought out what Sondheim has done since the 1990s.  The score is available in two iterations, but recorded as xcast albums, the other is called Bounce.  But both shows were generated from the same idea of a show.  I don't know if you've heard Assassins, but it is even available opn YouTube in a complete production. 

I'll do that!

I just realized I gave you some misinformation.  Although Assassins might also be on YouTube (it is (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vItcB9zw5EU)), what I meant to write was that Passion is on YouTube in a complete performance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhRLLpMun1U&list=PLC9797697E9C74A31).
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 20, 2015, 06:24:09 AM
Possible new Sondheim show in the works.

Video from November 2014 New Yorker Festival conversation with Adam Gopnik:

http://video.newyorker.com/watch/the-new-yorker-festival-stephen-sondheim-announces-details-of-new-musical-with-david-ives

Some more highlights of their conversation:

http://video.newyorker.com/watch/the-new-yorker-festival-stephen-sondheim-on-gypsy-and-west-side-story

http://video.newyorker.com/watch/the-new-yorker-festival-stephen-sondheim-2
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Luke on May 20, 2015, 07:42:28 AM
I think the first half of Into the Woods (musical) is about as good as it gets when it comes to this sort of thing. The second half doesn't have quite the tightness of the first half, though is still pretty good.

Yes, there is certainly a difference between the two halves, and the second half is definitely looser, thematically (though not much - new themes are suddenly introduced, and old ones drop out to some extent). But I think this is part of the genius of this particular show - a musical reflection of the idea that [first half] everything works out neatly and for the best in a pretty miraculous way but... [second half] actually real life is more complicated than that, and new, unexpected elements can intrude on those neat conclusions, and anyway, weren't all the wishes and assumptions we made a little foolish anyway....? So to me that second act is the perfect and necessary complement of the first, and its 'faults' are, in this sense at least, also its strengths. That's how I read it, anyway.

At any rate, songs like that tremendous Act II double-header Your Fault/Last Midnight are absolutely astonishing, I think. So different, those two songs, and yet so mysteriously complementary. Certainly they are by far the most powerful things I have ever worked with kids on.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 20, 2015, 07:50:02 AM
I think the first half of Into the Woods (musical) is about as good as it gets when it comes to this sort of thing. The second half doesn't have quite the tightness of the first half, though is still pretty good.

While I don't see as big a drop-off between the two acts as you seem to imply, I think you make a valid point. 

At a certain point, and fairly early on, possibly as early as Company, Sondheim will write a "sunny" first act and a much darker second act.  In fact, he's joked about it in interviews. 

Into the Woods also exemplifies how Sondheim titles will often enclose a pun on the deeper meaning of the show, in this case, the "woods" represent the subconscious fears we all have.  Confronting this part of ourselves is scary, and the second act should be darker.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Ken B on May 20, 2015, 11:52:52 AM
Am I the only one who thinks Children will Listen is a lift of Candyman, slowed down?
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 20, 2015, 12:33:41 PM
Am I the only one who thinks Children will Listen is a lift of Candyman, slowed down?

Yeah, you probably are.   ;)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Ken B on May 20, 2015, 02:52:24 PM
Yeah, you probably are.   ;)

I knew it! All you La Mer fans are deaf!
 >:D :laugh:
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 20, 2015, 02:53:47 PM
I knew it! All you La Mer fans are deaf!
 >:D :laugh:

As Karl might say, chortle ...
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: mc ukrneal on May 20, 2015, 03:50:11 PM
Yes, there is certainly a difference between the two halves, and the second half is definitely looser, thematically (though not much - new themes are suddenly introduced, and old ones drop out to some extent). But I think this is part of the genius of this particular show - a musical reflection of the idea that [first half] everything works out neatly and for the best in a pretty miraculous way but... [second half] actually real life is more complicated than that, and new, unexpected elements can intrude on those neat conclusions, and anyway, weren't all the wishes and assumptions we made a little foolish anyway....? So to me that second act is the perfect and necessary complement of the first, and its 'faults' are, in this sense at least, also its strengths. That's how I read it, anyway.

At any rate, songs like that tremendous Act II double-header Your Fault/Last Midnight are absolutely astonishing, I think. So different, those two songs, and yet so mysteriously complementary. Certainly they are by far the most powerful things I have ever worked with kids on.
I don;t disagree. I think for me the second half action is not as interesting as the first, though the songs and words are as clever as ever. Last midnight is one of my favorites too, where the witch sings, "You're so nice. You're not good, you're not bad, you're just nice. I'm not good, I'mnot nice, I'm just right. I'm the witch. You're the world. Etc." That whole section is just so good. I also like the second Prince's song, which copies in all ways the first, except the mood and words are completely different.

It's all knit-picking really, since I love this musical (among others). I find that it's emotional center is one that should last a long time for future audiences.
While I don't see as big a drop-off between the two acts as you seem to imply, I think you make a valid point. 

At a certain point, and fairly early on, possibly as early as Company, Sondheim will write a "sunny" first act and a much darker second act.  In fact, he's joked about it in interviews. 

Into the Woods also exemplifies how Sondheim titles will often enclose a pun on the deeper meaning of the show, in this case, the "woods" represent the subconscious fears we all have.  Confronting this part of ourselves is scary, and the second act should be darker.
Song-wise, I don't think there is any dropoff.

The woods are many things, including the great unknown. The sets and different ways the woods are represented on stage are often quite interesting too. The staging can be quite simple and yet tremendously effective.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Brewski on May 21, 2015, 11:10:27 AM
Just found this thread. (Contrary to conventional wisdom, the mods don't see everything posted on the board.  8))

I'm an enormous admirer of Sondheim's work. Like others here, my favorite might be Sweeney Todd, but A Little Night Music, Passion and Follies are not far behind. Seeing two recent productions of Merrily We Roll Along - one in New York's Encores! series, and the 2012 London version - convinced me that it is also one of his best, though it is very difficult to direct so that the reverse storytelling is clear. (The original Broadway production, directed by the usually great Harold Prince, was a mess.)

I do like Company, especially the songs, but that show is also difficult to bring off. Seeing the "miniature" version on Broadway a few years ago (with the actors playing instruments), I had forgotten how much spoken dialogue there is - seems like about half the show - and you really need excellent actors, in addition to people who sing well.

Passion is such an oddity (mostly for the strange story), but musically, I love its "through-composed" nature - it seems almost like a tone poem, and a gorgeous one, at that. Of all of Sondheim's scores, I have returned to that one most often in the last few years.

--Bruce
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 21, 2015, 11:14:40 AM
Just found this thread. (Contrary to conventional wisdom, the mods don't see everything posted on the board.  8))

I'm an enormous admirer of Sondheim's work. Like others here, my favorite might be Sweeney Todd, but A Little Night Music, Passion and Follies are not far behind. Seeing two recent productions of Merrily We Roll Along - one in New York's Encores! series, and the 2012 London version - convinced me that it is also one of his best, though it is very difficult to direct so that the reverse storytelling is clear. (The original Broadway production, directed by the usually great Harold Prince, was a mess.)

I do like Company, especially the songs, but that show is also difficult to bring off. Seeing the "miniature" version on Broadway a few years ago (with the actors playing instruments), I had forgotten how much spoken dialogue there is - seems like about half the show - and you really need excellent actors, in addition to people who sing well.

Passion is such an oddity (mostly for the strange story), but musically, I love its "through-composed" nature - it seems almost like a tone poem, and a gorgeous one, at that. Of all of Sondheim's scores, I have returned to that one most often in the last few years.

--Bruce

Nice.

I happen to be listening to Passion as I type this.   :)   

I'm not sure what rekindled my interest in Sondheim recently, but there was a time when I was deeply engaged with his musicals.  I am now reading a fantastic book:

Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Brewski on May 21, 2015, 11:30:53 AM
That book looks great - hadn't been aware of it. Somewhere I have an old copy of Craig Zadan's Sondheim & Co. - the only book on him I've read so far.

Forgot to comment on Pacific Overtures (saw a video of the original Broadway production, and a more recent one here about ten years ago) and it also has quite an exhilarating score. Wish the second production had used more musicians; it followed the recent trend of using just a handful, rather than a full orchestra, and especially in the bigger numbers, the extra weight seems more successful.

Also, the New York Philharmonic's semi-staged Sweeney Todd from last year (available on DVD, I think) was excellent, with Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson. Terfel sounded terrific - a more quietly menacing Todd than some - and Thompson was utterly hilarious, and added unexpected pathos, too. The orchestra and chorus weren't quite as large as the Philharmonic's concert version from a decade or so ago (it seemed), but the whole was still mightily effective.

--Bruce
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 21, 2015, 11:44:23 AM
That book looks great - hadn't been aware of it. Somewhere I have an old copy of Craig Zadan's Sondheim & Co. - the only book on him I've read so far.

That Zadan book is one I wish to get; it has been said to be the best book on Sondheim.

Quote
Forgot to comment on Pacific Overtures (saw a video of the original Broadway production, and a more recent one here about ten years ago) and it also has quite an exhilarating score. Wish the second production had used more musicians; it followed the recent trend of using just a handful, rather than a full orchestra, and especially in the bigger numbers, the extra weight seems more successful.

Pacific Overtures is a favorite of mine.  I was able to see an Off-Broadway production in the mid-'80s.

Quote
Also, the New York Philharmonic's semi-staged Sweeney Todd from last year (available on DVD, I think) was excellent, with Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson. Terfel sounded terrific - a more quietly menacing Todd than some - and Thompson was utterly hilarious, and added unexpected pathos, too. The orchestra and chorus weren't quite as large as the Philharmonic's concert version from a decade or so ago (it seemed), but the whole was still mightily effective.

I will look for that DVD.  I've been thinking of buying some of the shows on DVD, they can be had very cheaply in most cases, from Amazon third-party sellers.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on May 28, 2015, 02:35:49 AM
I found these two as very good used books for one-third the cost, and even at full price they would be great books for anyone interested in 1) Stephen Sondheim; 2) the craft of songwriting, specifically constructing and setting lyrics; 3) what makes for good musical theater and how it is different from opera.


Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on June 01, 2015, 11:44:05 AM
For years the standard criticism of Stephen Sondheim went something like this: “Brilliant lyricist, music tends to sound similar.  Sondheim is a cerebral composer whose work rarely causes an emotional response from the audience.”  While I readily agree that he is a brilliant lyricist, arguably the best to have worked in Musical Theater, I would never agree that his music is cerebral at the expense of evoking an emotional response.

How could a song like “Anyone Can Whistle” not be heard as plaintive? Lines such as the following strike me as very moving:

What's hard is simple.

What's natural comes hard.

Maybe you could show me

How to let go,

Lower my guard,

Learn to be free.

Maybe if you whistle,

Whistle for me.


In this last verse of the song, Sondheim cleverly alludes to the very criticism I’ve cited, but instead of a cold analysis what emerges is a heartfelt recognition of an inability to let go.  A perfect example of just how moving this song can be was on display at the end of Sondheim: A Musical Tribute.  Near the end, he was called to the stage and sat at the piano and sang the last verse of this song; when he got to the lines Lower my guard / Learn to be … he paused before the word free. Arthur Laurents said, “I always thought that song would be Steve’s epitaph.”

https://www.youtube.com/v/ncyo8EUUCVE

However, the rest of the article (https://musicakaleidoscope.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/the-passion-of-stephen-sondheim/) is about Passion - one of his somewhat lesser known shows but one I consider him at the top of his game.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Ken B on June 01, 2015, 01:31:59 PM
On youtube you can find Sondheim rehearsing students in numbers from Sweeney or Night music. Recommended!

That cover you just posted has Lee Remick's name on it. She's on my short short list. The greatest waste in history might be to have Lee Remick in love with you, and be gay ...
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on June 01, 2015, 02:25:52 PM
On youtube you can find Sondheim rehearsing students in numbers from Sweeney or Night music. Recommended!

That cover you just posted has Lee Remick's name on it. She's on my short short list. The greatest waste in history might be to have Lee Remick in love with you, and be gay ...

I know, but they really did care for each other; he was devastated when she died.  She was in the original cast, and it was her singing ACW on the original cast recording, unless YouTube did a switcheroo.  I'll check it.

thanks for reading
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Ken B on June 01, 2015, 03:30:27 PM
I guess I should give Passion another listen. I tried it once, and didn't listen to the whole thing. There's a performance at Stratford this year, just one, not staged, but my gf hated hated it.
The one I regret missing is Night Music in Niagara on the Lake at the Shaw festival a few years ago. Just couldn't get to it, so I have still never seen it live. (Saw the movie ...)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on June 01, 2015, 04:00:13 PM
I guess I should give Passion another listen. I tried it once, and didn't listen to the whole thing. There's a performance at Stratford this year, just one, not staged, but my gf hated hated it.
The one I regret missing is Night Music in Niagara on the Lake at the Shaw festival a few years ago. Just couldn't get to it, so I have still never seen it live. (Saw the movie ...)

I had never seen Passion until I watched the filmed Broadway show (the complete film is on YouTube).  I thought it was exceptional; much better than I was expecting.  I wish I could see a live production.  Assassins, too.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Ken B on June 01, 2015, 04:05:47 PM
I had never seen Passion until I watched the filmed Broadway show (the complete film is on YouTube).  I thought it was exceptional; much better than I was expecting.  I wish I could see a live production.  Assassins, too.
Assassins shouldn't be too hard. It is put on by university drama departments a lot. I think SS waives royalties on it for schools.
The ones I have seen live are Todd, sevearl times in several ways, Company, and Forum. Plus a concert Follies.

Passion https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/forum/2015/showcase.aspx?id=29799 (https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/forum/2015/showcase.aspx?id=29799)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on June 04, 2015, 10:24:45 AM
I like Sondheim very much too, at least the ones I know. I know at least Forum (was musical director for a college production around 1970), Company (seen on Broadway), Night Music, Sweeney Todd (seen at several good local productions, and on film), George (seen on Broadway), and Woods (the recent film of which was surprisingly good). I don't know Passion, Pacific, Merrily, Assassins, or Follies, though I can pull several of these off YouTube.

Can't add much new to the many good comments, other than a small personal anecdote. When I was about 15 (c. 1964) and still under the delusion that I would become a great composer, I went through a spell of writing a musical comedy and contacted by letter about a dozen well-known Broadway composers asking for help. Of the few that replied, most were unwilling to assist me, but Sondheim wrote back and said words to the effect that he would meet with me, but that I must expect very severe criticism. Well, since I didn't think the stuff I had written was very good to start with, that was enough to scare me off completely and I never followed up. (Somehow I doubt it mattered to him one way or the other.) But who knows, perhaps if I had accepted the offer my life might have taken a very different trajectory. At this point, however, it's a little late to schedule a meeting.

Anyhow, that is my little contribution to the Sondheim biography. I still have his typewritten, hand-signed letter.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on June 04, 2015, 10:35:43 AM
I like Sondheim very much too, at least the ones I know. I know at least Forum (was musical director for a college production around 1970), Company (seen on Broadway), Night Music, Sweeney Todd (seen at several good local productions, and on film), George (seen on Broadway), and Woods (the recent film of which was surprisingly good). I don't know Passion, Pacific, Merrily, Assassins, or Follies, though I can pull several of these off YouTube.

Can't add much new to the many good comments, other than a small personal anecdote. When I was about 15 (c. 1964) and still under the delusion that I would become a great composer, I went through a spell of writing a musical comedy and contacted by letter about a dozen well-known Broadway composers asking for help. Of the few that replied, most were unwilling to assist me, but Sondheim wrote back and said words to the effect that he would meet with me, but that I must expect very severe criticism. Well, since I didn't think the stuff I had written was very good to start with, that was enough to scare me off completely and I never followed up. (Somehow I doubt it mattered to him one way or the other.) But who knows, perhaps if I had accepted the offer my life might have taken a very different trajectory. At this point, however, it's a little late to schedule a meeting.

Anyhow, that is my little contribution to the Sondheim biography. I still have his typewritten, hand-signed letter.

Quite interesting.  He is quoted as saying teaching a sacred profession, and would teach/coach students whenever he could (as has been pointed out here, there are some YouTube clips of this).  Also, since he had been mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II he wanted to pass along what he had to offer to young composers when approached.  The bit about "severe criticism" probably echoes his own experience with Hammerstein, who treated a teen-aged Sondheim to some harsh criticism but went on to tell him why - and Sondheim, not without some hyperbole, says he learned more in that one afternoon than most composers might in a lifetime.

 :)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on June 04, 2015, 10:44:04 AM
Quite interesting.  He is quoted as saying teaching a sacred profession, and would teach/coach students whenever he could (as has been pointed out here, there are some YouTube clips of this).  Also, since he had been mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II he wanted to pass along what he had to offer to young composers when approached.  The bit about "severe criticism" probably echoes his own experience with Hammerstein, who treated a teen-aged Sondheim to some harsh criticism but went on to tell him why - and Sondheim, not without some hyperbole, says he learned more in that one afternoon than most composers might in a lifetime.

 :)

Yes, I know the Hammerstein anecdote now, but I didn't then, and I was anticipating nothing other than an afternoon of utter humiliation.
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: San Antone on November 17, 2015, 08:53:53 AM
Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano (https://musicakaleidoscope.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/liaisons-re-imagining-sondheim-from-the-piano/)

(https://musicakaleidoscope.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/ecm-sondheim-1.jpg?w=300&h=300)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: VonStupp on November 27, 2021, 10:15:40 AM
Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano (https://musicakaleidoscope.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/liaisons-re-imagining-sondheim-from-the-piano/)
(https://musicakaleidoscope.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/ecm-sondheim-1.jpg?w=986&h=986)

Listening to Sondheim, Sondheim, and more Sondheim, probably for awhile.

RIP.

--Bruce

I heard the news too a couple of hours ago.  What a talent!

PD

Bringing Anthony De Mare's Liasons Project out after so many years, per Bruce's and PD's post.

It is interesting to hear others' takes on Sondheim for piano; particularly, for me, W. Bolcolm and S. Reich.

Includes:
Andy Akiho- Into the Woods
Mason Bates-  Very Put Together (after Putting It Together)
Eve Beglarian- Perpetual Happiness (after Happiness)
Derek Bermel- Sorry-Grateful
Jherek Bischoff- Ballad of Guiteau
William Bolcom- A Little Night Fughetta (Send in the Clowns)
Jason Robert- Brown Birds of Victorian England (Green Finch and Linnet Bird)
Kenji Bunch- The Demon Barber (Ballad of Sweeney Todd)
Mary Ellen- Childs Now (Now/Later/Soon)
Michael Daugherty- Everybody’s Got the Right
Peter Golub- A Child of Children and Art
Ricky Ian Gordon- Every Day a Little Death
Annie Gosfield- A Bowler Hat
Jake Heggie- I’m Excited. No, You’re Not. (Weekend in the Country)
Fred Hersch- No One is Alone
Ethan Iverson- Send in the Clowns
Gabriel Kahane- Being Alive
Phil Kline- Paraphrase of Someone in a Tree
Tania Leon- going… gone (after Good Thing Going)
Ricardo Lorenz- The Worst [Empanadas] in London (The Worst Pies in London)
Wynton Marsalis- That Old Piano Roll
Paul Moravec- I Think About You (Losing My Mind)
Nico Muhly- Color and Light
John Musto- Epiphany
Thomas Newman- Not While I’m Around
David Rakowski- The Ladies Who Lunch
Steve Reich- Finishing the Hat – Two Pianos
Eric Rockwell- You Could Drive a Person Crazy
Daniel Bernard Roumain- Another Hundred People
Frederic Rzewski- I’m Still Here
Rodney Sharman- Notes on Beautiful (after Beautiful)
Duncan Sheik- Johanna… in Space
David Shire- Love is In the Air
Bernadette Speach- In and Out of Love (Liaisons/Send in the Clowns)
Mark-Anthony Turnage- Pretty Women
Nils Vigeland- Alma Mater/Merrily We Roll Along
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Brewski on November 27, 2021, 10:30:53 AM
Thanks for that nudge; I actually have not yet heard the De Mare album, and naturally it's getting a bit of air time since yesterday. That's quite an array of composers!

--Bruce
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Roasted Swan on November 27, 2021, 11:16:27 AM
I played on a Sondheim show in London's West End in the late 1980's.  Loved every minute of it - incredibly rewarding to play.  The great man came and saw the production and LOATHED it.  Ah well..........
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: VonStupp on November 27, 2021, 03:48:39 PM
I don't get to musical theatre too often when listening, but I was looking around to see what I still had of Sondheim's soundtracks. I definitely kept everything that had Angela Lansbury in it, a frequent collaborator of Sondheim, and who just turned 96 herself.

I came across this 2009 interview with both Sondheim and Lansbury today. They obviously had great respect for each other and wonderful stories to tell:

https://nymag.com/arts/theater/features/62635/ (https://nymag.com/arts/theater/features/62635/)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: Daverz on November 27, 2021, 08:47:41 PM
Listening to this old favorite:

(https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/81UZPF7aX2L._SS500_.jpg)
Title: Re: Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021)
Post by: kyjo on November 27, 2021, 09:50:45 PM
RIP Mr. Sondheim. I've played in the pit orchestra for a production of his Sweeney Todd - I'm not familiar with too much musical theatre but it seems to be a masterpiece of the genre if there ever was one. The often advanced harmonies that Sondheim employs shows that he knew his 20th century composers! Not to mention there's some killer melodies found throughout the score.