It sounds so intriguing doesn’t it? In 2007, Anthony de Mare, a champion of contemporary music and devotee of the musical theater genius of composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim (1930-2021) embarked on a project that has proven enduring. His big idea was to commission leading composers in jazz, film, theater and classical music, and the pop world, to transform their favorite Sondheim songs into piano pieces.
The response has been enthusiastic, importantly, from Mr. Sondheim himself, seen discussing the project in the video above. Next month at Royce Hall, Mr. De Mare will perform newly wrought renditions of Sondheim songs under the title, Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim.
Liaisons2020 was begun in honor of Sondheim’s 90th birthday in 2020, and takes on even more poignancy after his death in November of last year. The project has long legs … and is ongoing. Beginning in 2009, De Mare first commissioned a cluster of composers, eventually grew to 36, and those pieces premiered over a series of 3 NYC concerts in 2012, 2013, and 2015. The latter coincided with the release of all 36 pieces by ECM Records, as a 3-CD set.
In 2018 another 14 pieces were added to the compendium, in honor of Sondheim’s 90th, which would have premiered on his 90th in March of 2020 but for the pandemic. Instead, the works were premiered in 2 NYC concerts in November 2021 & March 2022. What’s happening at CAP UCLA is the West Coast premiere of 11 of those 14 new pieces, along with 10 from the original collection. The new pieces programmed are by Meredith Monk, Jon Batiste, Max Richter, Jeff Beal, Mark Bennett, Paola Prestini, Christopher Cerrone, Conrad Tao, and Kevin Puts; also Ted Hearne and Timo Andres, both of whom were commissioned by CAP.
And here’s wonderful news. A friend of artsmeme, the Grammy-winning pianist Gloria Cheng, joins De Mare performing Steve Reich’s “Finishing the Hat – Two Pianos” and the west coast premiere of Conrad Tao’s two-piano version of “Move On.”
Anthony de Mare | Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano | CAP UCLA, Royce Hall | Sun Apr 10