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- Ecm Records
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Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
"Isn't it rich?" indeed! I love this project, which I've been following for a few years online and in performances. So I was thrilled to come across this review on the website beyondcriticism, where the esteemed critic Matthew Gurewitsch encourages readers to "explore Liaisons in its exhilarating entirety" and goes so far as to suggest that "what De Mare hath wrought, with the help of his many collaborators, adds up [to] a collective Goldberg Variations for Sondheim." His review is so eloquent and on-the-money that I will quote it at length here: "Miniatures require concentration, all the more when they emanate from many hands. Beginning in 2007, the pianist Anthony de Mare, proud champion of new music, has commissioned three-dozen encore-length tributes to Stephen Sondheim. The resulting candy box, released last week as "Liaisons" on three generous CD's, opens with William Bolcom's whirling, contrapuntal "A Little Night Fughetta" (on the theme "Anyone Can Whistle"), followed by Nico Muhly's percussive "Color and Light" and mimimalist pioneer Steve Reich overdubbed 2-piano version of "Finishing the Hat"—a first indication of the imaginative range. Few listeners, I wager, will recognize everyone in the lineup, but marquee names abound, including, in order of appearance, Duncan Sheik, Wynton Marsalis, Fred Hersch, Jake Heggie, Frederic Rzewski, John Musto, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Ricky Ian Gordon, Gabriel Kahane, Tania León, and Michael Daugherty. Inevitably, certain personalities impose themselves more boldly than others; the pieces run the gamut from deferential transcription to bold Lisztian paraphrase. Along the way come surprises galore, in nearly as many idioms as there are composers. In length they range from one minute and forty-one seconds to nine minutes even. Some take their titles from the Sondheim songbook; some ring inventive changes ("Johanna in Space," "The Worst [Empanadas] in London"). Background music this is not. De Mare renders lyricism with a dreamy, even gossamer touch; in rambunctious numbers, he goes gorgeously bananas. Yet even the wildest inventions never obscure our octogenarian wunderkind of the American musical: in melodic gestures, in harmonies, in the metrics of his lyrics, he is there. Isn't it rich?"
The pianist Anthony de Mare, an admitted Sondheim devotee, has said that he enlisted the participating composers to expand the piano repertoire while celebrating the work of Stephen Sondheim. The result is a success on both counts. The Sondheim genius is unmistakable throughout, even when his music has been re-imagined to the point where occasionally it can only scarcely be recognized. And the piano pieces presented here will no doubt be beguiling and challenging a new generation of aspiring pianists, who will find plenty of heart-breakers and show-stoppers here, along with some more arcane fare. (One could say the same about all of Sondheim’s music!) Never, I suspect, will they be again performed with the sensitivity and virtuosity on display in de Mare’s piano playing, which adapts astonishingly well to an exceptionally wide range of sounds and styles.