Paul Gemignani

Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall [Highlights]

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This two-CD set is the recording of a benefit concert for Carnegie Hall performed at the hall on June 10, 1992 and featuring the American Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Paul Gemignani, supporting a variety of soloists doing songs written by Stephen Sondheim for Broadway musicals and films. As several anthologies of Sondheim's work and tributes to him have been recorded in the past, the organizers weren't able to find much new in the composer's catalog, and they have settled for sometimes gimmicky arrangements of his familiar songs. Nevertheless, many of the performances are strong, and the stars are many: Glenn Close ("Send in the Clowns"), Madeline Kahn ("I'm Not Getting Married Today"), Patti Lupone ("Being Alive"), Liza Minnelli (the sole new song, "Water Under the Bridge"), and Bernadette Peters ("Not a Day Goes By") are standouts, but the cream of Broadway is represented. Also, it's worth noting that, while the album may be a disappointment to diehard Sondheim fans, newcomers not familiar with this material may well be bowled over by its quality. Sondheim is Broadway's top contemporary composer, and this album demonstrates that as well as any. (Also available as a video, which actually works better, given that some of the numbers have strong visual elements.)

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