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Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:33 pm
by Steve Schenck
As I admire the work of both Burt Bacharach and Stephen Sondheim enormously, although they write primarily for different arenas, I've often wondered what the one thought of the other. I've never found much. I have often thought that there were moments in "Company" that were reminiscent of "Promises," and given that "Promises" opened a year and a few months before "Company," I thought it not unreasonable that Sondheim might have been influenced by Burt's work. I recently came across this brief posting; the author met Sondheim at a performance of "Back to Bacharach and David" in the 90s in NYC, and says that Sondheim said he was a big Bacharach fan! The writer then also notes the similarities between "Company" and "Promises." If you want to check it out, here's the link:

Re: Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Sat Jan 29, 2011 2:56 am
by An Enormous BB Fan
Very interesting. I enjoy the tidbits contained therein.

I am not surprised in the least that Sonheim was a fan of Burt's... and not surprised that he was influenced by Burt's "Promises, Promises" score and new way of presenting music on Broadway.

I believe that Burt influenced every musician (and certainly composer) who is familiar with his compositions. In fact, I don't see how they could NOT have been influenced by Burt. His oeuvre is just too original, inventive and astoundingly great not to impact all who listen.

I also admire Sondheim. I'd say that he's also a genius. I loved his 80th birthday celebration that aired on PBS last month. And, on top of his musical gifts, I can tell you that there's no better lyricist than Sondheim. Some of his lyrics can knock your socks off. "A Little Priest" from Sweeney Todd is unbelievably terrific!

Re: Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:24 am
by nymusicalsguy
Record producer Phil Ramone, of course, worked extensively with both Bacharach and Sondheim. In his fine autobiography MAKING RECORDS, he describes the musical sophistication of Bacharach and Sondheim: Of Sondheim, "Only Burt Bacharach's rhythmic complexities compare to Sondheim's." No surprise there! Ramone recognized the connection between the two on a compositional level...and I couldn't agree more!

Re: Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:49 pm
by Rio
I wrote more than once about what Tunick said about working with and learning from Burt. A life-altering experience. He was particularly impressed with what Burt had to say specifically about rythm.
I am not aware of a better connection between Burt and Sondheim.
Also, I believe it was on a Sondheim site that I read that Tunick learned to read drum charts with Burt.

Re: Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:47 pm
by steveo_1965
Another connection is Soundheims writing partner Leonard Bernstein. Lenny wrote a rhythm for West Side Story...
The song America...I think Burt was influenced by this when he wrote the 6/8 rhythms
for the tune Promises Promises....either conciously or unconciously...but Im glad he was!both are marvelous tunes...

Re: Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:10 am
by An Enormous BB Fan
Famed Russian conductor Serge Koussevitzky founded the Tanglewood Music Center in 1940, as the Berkshire Music Center. It was Koussevitsky's idea to establish this place in the Berkshires as a premier music academy where young performers and composers of exceptional ability would study with world-class artists. It is also the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and many of the Orchestra's players also teach during the summers at Tanglewood. Today, 20 percent of the members of American symphony orchestras and 30 percent of first-chair players are alumni of Tanglewood. Other distinguished alumni include trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, conductors Seiji Ozawa and Claude Abbado, songwriter/pianist Burt Bacharach, and of course Leonard Bernstein, who attended Tanglewood as a conducting student of Koussevitsky's.

From: ... m/2003/06/

And check this out: ... 22&f=false

Re: Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 3:09 am
by Rio

Tanglewod always meant "Copland," to me.

Please Google this

"copland's general harmonic"

and check the first link for another possible relation between Burt and Sondheim, in the light of your post.

Re: Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2020 1:18 am
by Bperkins
For awhile now I’ve been interested in how these contemporaries feel about each other musically. Born in 28’ and 30’ both in NYC they are two of the most prolific, important, brilliant, and extraordinary composers of the 20th century. I’m romanticizing about writing a book comparing and contrasting their lives and styles. The most obvious is Sondheims total devotion to the lyric and the vocal. He made certain that orchestrations didn’t compete with the vocals. He was obsessed with every word and how every word was articulated. Instrumentation was complimentary only. Bacharach wanted to showcase his amazing arrangements. He wrote all of his charts except for vocal charts and he wasn’t a lyricist (until the last few years). Sondheim was a storyteller who wrote incredible melodies and unique vocal arrangements that featured staggered harmonies and overlapping vocal parts in a way that not many have copied well. Bacharach’s vocals are not very memorable from an arrangement standpoint. Jonathan Tunic was an amazing arranger for Sondheim. He never had big scores. Sondheim didn’t conduct, or write instrument charts but obsessed over vocal arrangements. Bacharach conducted all of his songs and controlled all details.

Both very different but absolute musical giants. I suppose It should be noted that Bacharach wrote “hits” for 4 decades (50’s -80’s). Nobody does that...not McCartney, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, or Aaron Copeland. Great composers are lucky to be successful for just one decade. Sondheim hasn’t really been writing material of note since the 90’s.

Sondheim writes for singers. Burt writes for musicians. I consider Sondheim to be easily one of the 3 or 4 greatest lyricists in American music. I doubt Sondheim could write for an orchestra without a lot of sweat. That’s child’s play for Burt.
Two amazing NY Jews. We will never see two bookends as bright as this again.

Re: Bacharach/Sondheim connection

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2020 5:10 am
by pljms
I remember going to see a performance of the revue Side By Side By Sondheim in London in 1976 and experiencing the same frisson of excitement when hearing 'Another Hundred People' as I did the first time I heard some of the songs from Promises, Promises. The number was introduced in the musical Company which opened on Broadway in the spring of 1970 and featured Pamela Myers on the original cast recording: