Stephen Sondheim, lyricist and composer, 1930-2021

Stephen Sondheim told me during a. “The important thing is to get something on paper.” Lunch with the Financial Times 2010 interview.” “I love you, love you, love you, love you.” “Well, it’s a cliché, I’ll fix it tomorrow. You wake up in the morning and there it is. It’s something to work on.”

A leading figure in modern musical theater was discussing writing lyrics, which he found more difficult than composing music. Any conflict around the office was undetectable in the results. sundemWho passed away on Friday at the age of 91, was honored for his sophistication, intelligence, intelligence and the psyche of deep minds such as: a company And Foolishness. He took the cliché of the Broadway musical as a frivolous show of hooves and platters — and fixed it forever.

Sondem was born in New York in 1930. He grew up as an only child in a Jewish family, living in an apartment overlooking Central Park. His father, Herbert, made haute couture dresses for which his mother, Janet, presented her designs. It was a physically comfortable but emotionally cold childhood. After Herbert left for another woman, his mother took him to live in Pennsylvania.

Janet, nicknamed Foxy, was an unpopular presence in his life: She once told Sondheim that she regretted giving birth to him. Father found a warmer surrogate in the person of the famous Broadway lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, a close relative. creator Oklahoma! And South Pacific He became his mentor after Sondheim developed an interest in musicals: he wrote his first year at the age of 15.

Hammerstein, with his co-composer Richard Rodgers, brought a new degree of sophistication to the musical stage. Sondheim took the process several stages further. His break came when he passed the test to be a lyricist Leonard Bernstein West side story, which opened on Broadway in 1957. Her story “Maria” showed his sharp ear for language music. It is a love song that finds “all the beautiful sounds of the world in one word” – the heroine’s titular name.

He was lyricist for Another Song on Broadway, 1959 Gypsy: a musical tale, composed by Julie Stein. Unwilling to be labeled as a word maker, Sondheim began composing as well. His first musical in both roles was a slutty comedy Something funny happened on the way to the forum. First shown in 1962, the vaudeville delight gave way to more serious themes and a more subtle tonal range in later works.

Stephen Sondheim in 2004: His style of composition was also diverse and personal; He avoided getting stuck in a pastiche © AP

It was first organized in 1970, a company He portrayed the inability of a middle-aged New Yorker to enter into a romantic relationship. Foolishness (1972) was about infidelity and the breakdown of marriages. His storytelling spanned from the Victorian melodrama (1979 .). Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) to the Brothers Grimm fairy tales (1986 .) Into the forest) and a political history of the United States (1990 .) the killers).

His audacity to take the stylized format of musical theater into the complex real-life worlds is recognized early on: a company Critics praised it and won a Tony Award. But it proved too bold for some. His work has been described as emotionally cold and excessively cerebral. “Too smart by half” was a frequent objection, a concept he found unexplainable.

in 1981 merrily we roll along closed after 16 shows, one of the biggest twists in Broadway history; It has since been re-evaluated as a major business. Sondheim, a tireless innovator, sometimes had to wait for the world to catch up.

His style of composition was varied but also personal: he avoided the dilemma of pastiche. It can write display tools like a companyThe song “The Ladies Who Lunch,” which ends with her character singing the armful line “Everyone get up!” , in what Sondheim admitted was a warm welcome. (The opening night audience was not obligated to do so; the later audience did.) But his use of melodies was much thinner than traditional Broadway music. His songs are a zigzag of music and lyrics.

A lover of mysteries and murder mysteries, Sondheim was beaming with a kind of harmonious brinkmanship. Once Cole made Porter gasp with a quadruple outline of a bravura rhyme. For all his verbal brilliance, he despised ostentation. The words and music must be true to the character.

He came out as gay in his forties but preferred to keep his private life to himself; He is survived by his wife Geoffrey Rumley. He had a dignified demeanor in person, not grandiose or self-obsessed at all. Despite his estrangement from his mother, or perhaps because of her, he wrote fantastic roles for women. Although he challenged the full conclusion of happy endings, a curious sense of possibility pulsates throughout his work. In the words of “our time” from merrily we roll along: “This is where we started, as best we can.”

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