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Sondheim's Broadway musicals /

Main Author: Banfield, Stephen, 1951-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1993
Series: Michigan American music series.
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Review by Choice Review

Banfield seems almost to hear Sondheim's music with Sondheim's ears. This extremely valuable work discusses Sondheim's early training and subsequent career, his general compositional concerns, and his style. The meat of the book is a musical-dramatic analysis of each of his musicals, from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962) through Into the Woods (1987). These analytical explorations are not just the usual recounting of, for example, the use of song to establish character or the genesis and developemnt of the show. For each musical, Banfield places the work and its components in a historical and typological context. He also treats in welcome detail the musical profile or universe of each show: Sondheim's use of generative intervals or interval complexes as source material, motifs that reappear in various guises in various songs, the sound world that defines the musical's emotional world. These professional, sophisticated discussions never befog the clarity of Banfield's ear and mind. The book will be as useful to those who are cool to Sondheim's work as to his fans. It will not be the last word in Sondheim criticism; but it will not soon lose its place as an essential contribution. Upper-level undergraduates; graduate students. J. McCalla; Bowdoin College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Banfield (school of performance studies, Univ. of Birmingham, England) has produced a thorough, scholarly work that emphasizes Sondheim's compositional process. The author spends a single chapter tracing Sondheim's background (including his close relationship with mentor Oscar Hammerstein), academic preparation, and various projects. Next is an academic study of each Sondheim musical for Broadway, from West Side Story (1957) to Into the Woods (1987). Much detail is devoted to scoring, specialty songs, and considerations inherent in each production, such as the Kabuki element in Pacific Overtures (1973) and the 19th-century period tone in A Little Night Music (1973). Banfield, who had his subject's full cooperation, includes an abundance of musical examples along with structure charts pertaining to lyric development or song placement. This outstanding work belongs in every academic library with 20th-century music or theater collections.-- Diane H. Albosta, Episcopal H.S. Lib., Alexandria, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.