The Sound of Sondheim

The Sound of Sondheim

Pianist Anthony de Mare performs Phil Kline

Just when you think there’s nothing more to be gleaned from the songs of Stephen Sondheim, along comes Anthony de Mare, pianist and champion of contemporary music, to shake things up.

Over the course of four years, de Mare invited 36 composers from a wide variety of musical backgrounds—contemporary classical, jazz, pop, film and theater (think: Nico Muhly, Wynton Marsalis, Phil Kline, Thomas Newman, Jason Robert Brown, to name a few)—to reimagine a Sondheim song of their choice as a piece for solo piano. The result is a three-CD set, Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim From the Piano, which is to be released on the ECM New Series label on Sept. 25.

“I created this project,” de Mare says, “because I wanted to show Sondheim’s influence on composers of many different genres and also to enhance and add to the piano repertoire with a whole new body of work.”

The maestro's reaction? “Flattered and intrigued,” Sondheim says, adding: “Nearly all of [the pieces] totally surprised me, taking approaches that would never have occurred to me—very few of these re-imaginings are built like a song. They’re much more free-floating, there’s more of a fantasia about them.”

Tracks, featuring de Mare at the piano, cover the full range of Sondheim’s theater work, from Anyone Can Whistle to Follies to Merrily We Roll Along to Passion.

In conjunction with the CD release, de Mare performs all 36 piano works, split up into three concerts in New York at Birdland (315 W. 44th St., 212.581.3080, birdlandjazz.com) on Sept. 24 at 6 p.m.; The Sheen Center (18 Bleecker St., 212, 219.3132, sheencenter.org) on Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m.; and Symphony Space (2537 Broadway, 212.864.5400, sheencenter.org) on Nov. 19 at 8 p.m.

No fan of Sondheim will want to miss either the recording or the live concerts.