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Thread: Stephen Sondheim (1930 - 2021): does he have a place in "the canon"?

  1. #31
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Last edited by SanAntone; Dec-05-2021 at 21:31.

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    Senior Member John Zito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    Stephen Sondheim interviewed by James Lipton at The Actor's Studio

    Sadly that video doesn't include the beginning of the episode where Lipton gives his usual introduction, and then Sondheim walks out while Paul Ford plays "Beautiful Girls."

  3. #33
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Zito View Post
    Sadly that video doesn't include the beginning of the episode where Lipton gives his usual introduction, and then Sondheim walks out while Paul Ford plays "Beautiful Girls."
    You're right it is missing Lipkin's intro, but Im not sure what you mean by "Sondheim walks out while Paul Ford plays 'Beautiful Girls.'" There is a performance of "Pretty Women", but as far as I can tell Sondheim does not walk out. The rest of the interview and Q&A is complete.

    BTW I've requested that this thread be moved to the Composer Guestbook. Would that bother you?
    Last edited by SanAntone; Dec-05-2021 at 22:06.

  4. #34
    Senior Member John Zito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    You're right it is missing Lipkin's intro, but Im not sure what you mean by "Sondheim walks out while Paul Ford plays 'Beautiful Girls.'" There is a performance of "Beautiful Women", but as far as I can tell Sondheim does not walk out. The rest of the interview and Q&A is complete.
    I once saw it broadcast on television years ago. Lipton introduces Sondheim, who then walks on stage to take his seat, and as a joke the pianist plays the opening riff of "Beautiful Girls" from Follies, which in the show is the music that accompanies the old show girls making their entrances.
    Last edited by John Zito; Dec-05-2021 at 22:11.

  5. #35
    Senior Member John Zito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    BTW I've requested that this thread be moved to the Composer Guestbook. Would that bother you?
    Nope. But they should change the thread title to just his name, then.

  6. #36
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Zito View Post
    I once saw it broadcast on television years ago. Lipton introduces Sondheim, who then walks on stage to take his seat, and as a joke the pianist plays the opening riff of "Beautiful Girls" from Follies, which in the show is the music that accompanies the old show girls making their entrances.
    Oh, I had forgotten about that. I also saw it back when The Actor's Studio was running, but it was more than twenty years ago..

  7. #37
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Speaking of Follies, that show has had a somewhat bumpy journey. These are the productions which resulted in a cast recording.

    1971 Original Broadway - even though it ran for over 500 performances it was a failure business-wise, and fo cost-cutting measures the ccast album was heavily edited, down from what would have been 2 LPs to one.

    Concert version at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, was performed on September 6 and 7, 1985. This has a more complete score, and was issued as 2 LPs. This is has been my go-to recording of the show.

    2011 Kennedy Center and Broadway. While the show at the Kennedy Center received only tepid reviews, after moving to Broadway the reviews improved considerably, although it still did not recoup the investment money. A two-disc cast album of this production was recorded by PS Classics and was released on November 29, 2011.

    The 2017 London revival cast was recorded after the production closed in January 2018, and was released in early 2019.

    There have been two other recordings: The original London production (1987), and the Paper Mill Playhouse (1998) [The 1998 Paper Mill Playhouse production (Millburn, New Jersey) was directed by Robert Johanson with choreography by Jerry Mitchell and starred Donna McKechnie (Sally), Dee Hoty (Phyllis), Laurence Guittard (Ben), Tony Roberts (Buddy), Kaye Ballard (Hattie ), Eddie Bracken (Weismann), and Ann Miller (Carlotta).]
    Last edited by SanAntone; Dec-05-2021 at 23:26.

  8. #38
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Pacific Overtures (1976) - "Someone in a Tree"

    One of Sondheim's better shows, IMO, and it includes a song which he is quoted as saying is the best thing he ever wrote, "Someone in a Tree."

    The original Broadway cast album is a good record of that production but it only includes eleven numbers.



    The other cast recording is from the 2004 Broadway revival with new (reduced) orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick was released by PS Classics, with additional material not included on the original cast album.




  9. #39
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    Yes. He belongs in the “canon.” As to
    which canon…….it’s MUSIC.

  10. #40
    Senior Member John Zito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrankinUsa View Post
    Yes. He belongs in the “canon.” As to
    which canon…….it’s MUSIC.
    You're right of course. What I meant by putting "the canon" in scare quotes is "do Sondheim's works belong in the regular repertoire of orchestras and opera houses?" And not just as part of pops concerts, but considered as serious works of 20th century music on par with Britten, Gershwin, Poulenc, whomever.

    As a matter of mere fact, his stuff has been taken up in the opera house and concert hall. The New York Philharmonic has presented semi-staged productions of several of the shows, and Sweeney Todd has been staged in top opera houses. So I'm wondering things like: have those efforts been successful? does the music work in that environment? is it just a gimmick on the part of performing arts organization, or will Sondheim find a permanent-ish place in the repertoire of classical music organizations?

    My ambivalence about this stems from the fact that I do think Sondheim's best stuff deserves to be taken seriously as 20th century opera/music drama, but I'm not sure that opera singers make a convincing case for it. For instance, Bryn Terfel has been doing yeoman's work evangelizing for Sweeney Todd's place in the opera house, but to be honest I've never loved his performances. But ages ago I heard bootleg recordings on YouTube (long since deleted) of Thomas Allen and Felicity Palmer in Sweeney at Covent Garden, and I kind of liked them. So I'm not sure...
    Last edited by John Zito; Dec-07-2021 at 06:47.

  11. #41
    Senior Member John Zito's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Zito View Post
    ...ages ago I heard bootleg recordings on YouTube (long since deleted) of Thomas Allen and Felicity Palmer in Sweeney at Covent Garden...
    Actually, does anyone know if those recordings are floating around someplace? Someone has them.
    Last edited by John Zito; Dec-07-2021 at 06:47.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Zito View Post
    My ambivalence about this stems from the fact that I do think Sondheim's best stuff deserves to be taken seriously as 20th century opera/music drama, but I'm not sure that opera singers make a convincing case for it. For instance, Bryn Terfel has been doing yeoman's work evangelizing for Sweeney Todd's place in the opera house, but to be honest I've never loved his performances. But ages ago I heard bootleg recordings on YouTube (long since deleted) of Thomas Allen and Felicity Palmer in Sweeney at Covent Garden, and I kind of liked them. So I'm not sure...
    I don't think that classical music should be defined by whether traditional Opera singers can perform it convincingly.
    I mean, the range of skills that performers possess expands as time progresses.

    Nowadays we have instruments that were not available to early classical composers, a modern piano is very different from the ones Mozart played, even the Saxophone is a relatively late invention, and I'm not even getting into electric guitars and synthesizers.

    And yet we accept these instruments in "classical music". Messiaen uses an early electronic keyboard called "ondes martenot", Stockhausen uses electric guitars, and Xenakis has electronic pieces that cannot at all be performed by traditional classical musicians.

    If we can accept such pieces in the Classical Canon, then I don't see why we shouldn't accept Sondheim.
    The fact that Opera singers cannot perform his work convincingly only shows that there are possibly deficiencies in the education of opera singers (maybe it's to narrow/old-fashioned?), not that Sondheim isn't deserving of the Classical status.

    Personally I can easily accept him as classical. I think his music has much more in common with mozart than with Justin Bieber or Nicki Minaj.
    Last edited by chipia; Dec-10-2021 at 16:34.

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