Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim ( born March 22, 1930 in New York City ) is an American musical composer and songwriter. He is the winner of an Academy Award, multiple Tony Awards (9 ), multiple Grammy Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize.


Sondheim grew after the divorce of his parents on a farm in Pennsylvania. From the age of 7 he began piano lessons. At the age of ten he became friends with Jimmy Hammerstein, son of Oscar Hammerstein. After Sondheim had written a show for a school play, he came up with this Oscar Hammerstein. Although Hammerstein's reaction to this was negative, he saw Sondheim's potential and taught him the basics of the musical. For training, he recommended him to write four pieces, namely:

  • A musical based on a good piece (such as All That Glitters )
  • A musical based on a bad piece (such as High Tor )
  • A musical based on a novel or a short story that have not yet been dramatized (such as Mary Poppins )
  • A musical with an original story (such as Climb High )

None of these " job musicals " was produced professionally. High Tor and Mary Poppins have been the main reason not produced because the rights holders of the original works refused permission. But Sondheim learned through discussion with the musical veterans more about writing musicals, as if he had by studying the entire musical literature can learn.

Sondheim studied with the composer Milton Babbitt. In 1950 he completed his studies at Williams College in Williamstown (Massachusetts ) magna cum laude, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi academic communities and Phi Beta Kappa.

In 1954, he wrote music and lyrics for Saturday Night, which never came to Broadway in 1997 and was listed in the Bridewell Theatre in London.

With 25 Sondheim wrote the lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story and 1959 Gypsy by Jule Styne to those. In both cases, came the book by Arthur Laurents. 1962 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was performed on Broadway, the first musical for which he wrote music and lyrics. The next musical, Anyone Can Whistle, was a financial failure. Later, however, a cult developed around this work. Subsequently, he worked for the last time as a lyricist for other composers, namely for Do I Hear a Waltz? with music by Richard Rodgers. Thereafter he devoted himself to composing and writing a number of the criticisms much appreciated musicals.

With 40 years of Sondheim had his coming out. His life companion was temporarily the dramatist Peter Jones.

Musical Style

Sondheim musical is one of the most demanding musical composers of all time. Most of his musicals waive catchy melodies easily understood, so that only a few songs from his stage work known to a wide audience. A typical feature of his style is to arrange complex musical structures so well that they 're not really noticed an inexperienced listeners. He has a penchant for intricate harmonies and melodies that take often even polyphonic forms (such as the chorus of five minor roles in Smiles of a Summer Night, which as a kind of "Greek chorus " acts ). As a model for it designates the stream. ( He once claimed to have heard otherwise. )

His most important work is Sunday in the Park with George. He imitates the pointillist style of painting by Georges Seurat by chromatic staccato motifs. At the same time Sunday in the Park with George is also a biographical work in which Sondheim discussed his literary and musical views.

Major works

Unless otherwise noted, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

  • West Side Story (1957 ) (Text with Sondheim, music by Leonard Bernstein; book by Arthur Laurents ) - 1961 by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise filmed.
  • Gypsy ( 1959) ( text of Sondheim, music by Jule Styne, book by Arthur Laurents ) - filmed in 1962 by Mervyn LeRoy with Rosalind Russell and produced by Emile Ardolino in 1993 with Bette Midler for television.
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962, performed in German under various titles, most Toll it drove the Romans ) ( book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart ) - 1966 under the same title by Richard Lester film starring Zero Mostel.
  • Anyone Can Whistle ( 1964) ( book by Arthur Laurents )
  • Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965 ) (Text with Sondheim, music by Richard Rodgers; book by Arthur Laurents )
  • Follies ( 1971) ( book by James Goldman )
  • Filmed in 1977 by Harold Prince with Elizabeth Taylor - A Little Night Music ( 1973 German ' Smiles of a Summer Night " ) ( book by Hugh Wheeler )
  • Pacific Overtures ( 1976) ( book by John Weidman )
  • Sweeney Todd ( 1980) ( book by Hugh Wheeler )
  • Sunday in the Park with George ( 1984) ( book by James Lapine )
  • Into the Woods (1987) ( book by James Lapine )
  • Assassins ( 1990) ( book by John Weidman )
  • Passion ( 1994) ( book by James Lapine )
  • Saturday Night (1997, created 1954) ( book by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein )
  • Bounce ( 2003)
  • The Frogs ( musical) (2005, created 1974) ( book by Nathan Lane after the ancient comedy The Frogs )
  • Road Show (2008 )

Film / TV

  • Topper ( circa 1953 ), a television series ( without music ) for which Sondheim wrote ten episodes
  • Evening Primrose (1966 ), a TV musical starring Anthony Perkins about a secret society of people living in a department store
  • The Last of Sheila (1973 ), a film written by Anthony Perkins.
  • The Madam's Song or I Never Do Anything Twice, for the film The Seven -Per- Cent Solution (1976, German " No coke for Sherlock Holmes ").
  • The film score for Alain Resnais's film Stavisky (1974).
  • 1977: Smiles of a Summer Night (A Little Night Music)
  • Five songs for Warren Beatty's film Dick Tracy (1990). ( Academy Award for Best Song for " Sooner or Later " )
  • The original English name of Desperate Housewives episodes are mostly named after titles of his works.
  • The film music for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ( 2007)