January 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Send In The Clowns  
The Ballads Of Stephen Sondheim
  Send In The Clowns (Cleo Lane) / Losing my Mind (Barbara Cook) / I Remember (David Kernan) / Liaisons (Hermione Gingold) / With So Little To Be Sure Of (Jerry Hadley, Carolann Page) / Not A Day Goes By (Bernadette Peters) / Pretty Woman (Michael Rupert, Stephen Collins) / In Buddy's Eyes (Barbara Cook) / No One Is Alone (Cleo Lane) / Johanna (Victor Garber) / So Many People (Suzanne Henry, Craig Lucas / Sorry-Grateful (Stephen Collins) / Too Many Mornings (George Hearn) / Finishing The Hat (Mandy Patinkin / Not While I'm Around (Ken Jennings, Angela Lansbury) / Like It Was (Julie Andrews) / Unworthy of Your Love (Greg Germann, Annie Golden / Anyone Can Whistle (Cleo Lane)
  Available on BMG Heritage No: 09026 63700 2  
Running time: 63:37

send in the clowns

I have always been aware of the work of Stephen Sondheim, and of how highly he is regarded, and was virtually raised on the musicals "Gypsy" and "West Side Story", for which he provided the lyrics. But other than seeing the film version of "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum", for which the producers apparently excised most of Sondheim's songs, and watching television broadcasts of the Broadway productions of "Sunday In the Park With George" and "Into The Woods", I have shamefully never attended the theatre or spun the discs for the wealth of musicals for which Stephen Sondheim has provided both the words and the music. I don't know how I could have been so remiss as to have avoided "Sweeney Todd", A Little Night Music", "Merrily We Roll Along", "Pacific Overtures" and "Follies" among others.

So in reviewing this album I am very much like a virgin, touched by Sondheim for the very first time. And not only virginal, but wistful too, as I must have been in melancholy mood when listening to these wonderful songs because I was genuinely moved despite my renowned heart of stone - and it's not only Sondheim's brilliance of invention, but the extraordinarily effective performances gathered together here which I found so touching. I was familiar with Glynis John's affecting original rendition of "Send In the Clowns", but Cleo Lane's performance here is so warm, so winning and what price the nostalgic "I Remember", sung by David Kernan, whose intimate delivery is perfection or the similarly toned "Liaisons", immaculately sung by Hermione Gingold. In truth all the performances here gathered from recordings made between 1975 and 1993 are impeccable, perhaps not surprising given the magical and illusive nature of the composer's muse. Of course this album is designed to represent the soulful side of Sondheim - the romantic, the sad and the nostalgic so an air of longing endures. But although this is an album of collected ballads there are few "big tunes" of the sort we might associate with, say, Richard Rodgers, yet nevertheless the listener gains an enviable canon of Sondheim lyrics, infused with introspection and melancholy, and touching on many universal truths, perfectly served by his melodic lines.

This is a disc surely to be snapped-up by Sondheim completists but it is a wonderfully endearing album in itself and recommended to all who have romance in their soul or nostalgia in their hearts.

David Wishart

**** 4

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