Liaisons: Reimagining Sondheim From The Piano


On Saturday, March 9 (7 pm), as part of Symphony Space’s The Music of Now Series, pianist Anthony de Mare returns to the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre for the second installment of Liaisons: Reimagining Sondheim from the Piano. Marrying his reputation as a champion of contemporary classical music with his deep respect for legendary musical theater composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, de Mare is building a unique piano repertory by commissioning 36 leading contemporary composers from the classical, jazz, theater, and film worlds to write short solo piano pieces inspired by Sondheim’s music.

Anthony de Mare’s sold-out Symphony Space concert last April featured seventeen of the commissioned works, including pieces by Steve Reich, William Bolcom, Fred Hersch, and Marc-Anthony Turnage. On March 9, de Mare will premiere fifteen new compositions by Eve Beglarian, Jason Robert Brown, Mary Ellen Childs, Michael Daugherty, Peter Golub, Annie Gosfield, Phil Kline, Nico Muhly, John Musto, Thomas Newman, Eric Rockwell, Frederic Rzweski, Rodney Sharman, Bernadette Speach, and Nils Vigeland. The works draw on famous and lesser-known Sondheim songs from Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Follies, Company, and other shows.

The evening will include an on-stage discussion with Stephen Sondheim, led by Mark Eden Horowitz, author of the critically acclaimed Sondheim on Music. Film clips of the composers speaking about Liaisons will be interspersed throughout the program. Tickets are $55, $47 for members, $15 for those under 30. A complete program list appears below.

A B O U T ‘ T H E  L I A I S O N S  P R O J E CT ’

This project marks the first time that Sondheim songs have been formally adapted for solo piano. With Sondheim’s blessing, de Mare selected a remarkable and diverse roster of composers from around the world to re-imagine a Sondheim song of their choosing, resulting in a wide variety of settings. “It is aesthetically fulfilling to hear composers take my music and treat it seriously,” said Sondheim, himself a student of seminal composer Milton Babbitt, during an onstage interview at last year’s Symphony Spaceconcert. 

Contributing composers represent varying genres of music including: jazz (Fred Hersch, Ethan Iverson); contemporary classical (Frederic Rzewski, Phil Kline, Mason Bates, Mary Ellen Childs, Derek Bermel, Andy Akiho); pop/classical hybrid (Nico Muhly, Gabriel Kahane, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Jherek Bischoff); opera (Mark-Anthony Turnage, John Musto, Jake Heggie); musical theater (Ricky Ian Gordon, Jason Robert Brown, Eric Rockwell); film (Peter Golub, Thomas Newman) and more. LIAISONS also includes works by Pulitzer Prize-winners William Bolcom, Steve Reich, Michael Daugherty and Paul Moravec, Academy Award-winners Thomas Newman and David Shire, TONY Award-winner Jason Robert Brown, and Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik.

De Mare encouraged the composers to choose whichever song most compelled them, with the only criteria being a maximum length of 10 minutes and adherence to the song’s basic melodic material. Composers put their own spin on recognizable classics like Send in the Clowns, The Ballad of Sweeney Todd and Being Alive, to name a few, but also on lesser-known works including Sorry-Grateful, Someone in a Tree and A Bowler Hat, among others. “Each piece represents a totally unique union of the composer’s individual style with Sondheim’s underlying substance,” comments de Mare. “These aren’t songs without words—they are complete musical compositions in their own right that reveal Sondheim’s unparalleled capacity for melody and musical architecture.” A full recording of the project is underway, produced by Judith Sherman, for release in spring 2014. Further details are available HERE.

T H E  P R O G R A M

Phil Kline: Paraphrase (Someone in a Tree) (based on Someone in a Tree from Pacific Overtures)
Frederic Rzewski: I’m Still Here (Follies)

Jason Robert Brown: Birds of Victorian England (based on Green Finch and Linnet Bird from Sweeney Todd)

Thomas Newman: Not While I’m Around (Sweeney Todd)

Rodney Sharman: Notes on Beautiful (based on Beautiful from Sunday in the Park with George)

Nico Muhly: Color and Light (Sunday in the Park with George)

Mary Ellen Childs: Now, Later, Soon (A Little Night Music)

Eve Beglarian: Perpetual Happiness (based on Happiness from Passion)

Bernadette Speach: In and Out of Love (based on Send in the Clowns and Liaisons from A Little Night Music)

John Musto: Epiphany (Sweeney Todd)

Michael Daugherty: Everybody’s Got the Right (Assassins)

Nils Vigeland: Merrily We Roll Along (Merrily We Roll Along)

Peter Golub: A Child of Children and Art (based on Children and Art from Sunday in the Park with George)

Steve Reich: Finishing the Hat (Sunday in the Park with George)

Eric Rockwell: You Could Drive a Person Crazy (Company)

Mason Bates: Very Put Together (based on Putting it Together from Sunday in the Park with George)

Annie Gosfield: A Bowler Hat (Pacific Overtures)

Jake Heggie: I’m Excited. No You’re Not (based on A Weekend in the Country from A Little Night Music)

A B O U T   A N T H O N Y  D E  M A R E

Praised for his “muscularly virtuosic, remarkably uninhibited performance [and] impressive talents” (The New York Times), Anthony de Mare is recognized as one of the world’s most versatile pianists. A foremost champion of contemporary music, and a pioneer in the speaking-singing pianist genre, recent performance highlights include: the national tour of The American Piano with pianist Steven Mayerand scholar Joseph Horowitz; Playing With Myself, a multi-media concert event; Missing Peace, an eclectic series of old and new works inspired by the exhibition The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama; Cool ~ A Journey into the Influence of Jazz;and Unities: Music of Pride and Celebration. De Mare has also collaborated and performed with the Lark Quartet, the Bang-On-A-Can All Stars, Meredith Monk/The House, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, among many others. He currently serves on the roster of Yamaha Artists and is a professor of piano at Manhattan School of Music and New York University. Visit

A B O U T  S Y M P H O N Y  S P A C E

Symphony Space traces its beginnings to a free marathon concert, Wall to Wall Bach, held in 1978 and organized by co-founders Isaiah Sheffer and Allan Miller. The music marathon then drew thousands of visitors and has since become one of the organization’s signature events. Today Symphony Space presents more than 600 events each season, including music, dance, theater, film, and literary readings. Some of its best known programs include Selected Shorts, a reading of short stories by stars of stage and screen, and one of the most popular series on public radio; the Thalia Film Club, a trendy film club hosted by Marshall Fine featuring pre-release screenings and behind-the-scenes conversations with film stars; Just Kidding, one of the most talked about family entertainment series around town; and, more recently, The Mus ic of Now, presenting an eclectic range of music in all styles and sensibilities, focusing on emerging artists and unusual work. Uptown/ Showdown has been called “New York’s best comedy series” by New York magazine.

Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street. Box office hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 1 pm – 6 pm, open two hours prior to performances and events. Tickets can also be purchased through, or by calling 212/864-5400.

 Photo Courtest Of: Symphony Space