Send in the Clowns – a song has faded away

Photo: Discogs

When one thinks of Stephen Sondheim, one hardly associates him with Bernstein’s “West Side Story”. Sondheim was brilliant as a composer as well as a lyricist, and so he provided the texts for this opera. He called Johann Sebastian Bach his model as a composer. He once claimed to have heard nothing but Bach’s. Most of his musicals do without catchy, easy-to-follow melodies, so that only a few songs from his stage works are known to a wide audience. One exception is probably the Lein “Send in the Clows” from the musical “A Little Not Music”. A typical feature of his style is to arrange complex musical structures so skilfully that they are not even noticeable to an inexperienced listener. He had a preference for complicated harmonies and melodies, which not infrequently even took on polyphonic forms.

Sondheim won all the prestigious US awards in his decades-long career. For his work, he was honoured with eight Grammy Awards, as many Tony Awards, an Oscar and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2015, he received the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States, from then-President Barack Obama. “To put it simply, Stephen reinvented the American musical,” Obama said at the time.

Musical composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim has died at the age of 91. The New York Times reported that Sondheim’s lawyer, F. Richard Pappas, died on Friday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, after celebrating Thanksgiving with friends the day before.

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