Concert pianist Anthony de Mare premieres 17 new pieces from The Liaisons Project, his landmark concert and commissioning project based on the work of legendary musical theater composer Stephen Sondheim. With LIAISONS, de Mare is building a brand new piano repertory, featuring 36 of today's most revered contemporary composers, that marries his reputation as a champion of contemporary classical music with his deep respect for Sondheim as one of the 20th century's great composers. The first 17 completed works from the LIAISONS project premiered on a 2012 multi-city tour that culminated with a sold-out performance at Symphony Space's Peter Jay Sharp Theater in April 2012. Another 17 will premiere during the 2013 season.
This 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 ranging from jazz and classical to opera, film and musical theater.
"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 on stage interview at last year's Symphony Space concert.
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, and TONY Award-winner Jason Robert Brown.
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."
De Mare first had the idea for the LIAISONS project over 20 years ago. In 2007 he engaged a producer and began pursuing the project in earnest; by 2011 they had secured 31 of the 36 commissions and had 17 pieces in hand, which de Mare began unveiling in a series of critically acclaimed "sneak previews" across the country. Material is exclusive to de Mare through 2016; a full recording of the project is also underway, produced by Judith Sherman, for release in spring 2014.