In yesterday's post "The Sondheim file: A personal roundup," I garbled the information on my second on-air Stephen Sondheim tribute. The copy should have read:
For anyone who missed my Sondheim tribute on "Catch of the Day" last Sunday or is hungry for more, we've slotted in a second earful of Sondheim songs and stories on Boxing Day, Sunday, December 26 at noon, Hawaiian-Aleutian time. Barring technical mishaps, the segment will remain available on demand at www.manaoradio.com through January 8, 2022.
And while I'm on the subject of corrections, let me pass along another little exchange with Steve. Reviewing the phenomenal National Theatre revival of Follies for Classical Voice North America in 2017, I suggested that Heidi's song "One More Kiss" might be an encrypted homage to Steve's mentor Oscar Hammerstein II. After all, the opening three-note phrase is an exact echo of the opening three-note phrase of "Edelweiss," in The Sound of Music. More than that, in each case, the phrase is matched to the title of the song, driving the point home. Steve wrote to demur.
["One More Kiss" is] not an homage to "Edelweiss,'" but to Sigmund Romberg and/or Rudolf Friml, both of whom indeed collaborators with OH II, so the attribution is understandable (it sure isn't typical Rodgers).
But who are you going to believe? The composer-lyricist or your lying ears? I took snaps of the opening bars of the two songs and asked if I what I might be missing. Came the response:
Good grief! I didn't realize how much RR was influenced by Romberg ...
And a few hours later, this afterthought:
Does the name Sigmund Spaeth mean anything to you? You may be his natural heir.
Surely Steve could guess that Spaeth's name was new to me. Of course, I looked him up. Turns out Spaeth was a musicologist popular with vaudeville and Golden Age radio listeners as the Tune Detective. (Vaudeville! Vaudeville! How great you were!) Probably Spaeth's most durable contribution was the column in which he traced "Yes, We Have No Bananas" to Handel's "Hallelujah" Chorus, the sentimental aria "I Dreamt I Dwelled In Marble Halls," from Balfe's largely forgotten opera The Bohemian Girl, and numerous other sources. On at least one occasion, Spaeth also appeared as an expert witness in a musical plagiarism case.
In an illuminating essay on Steve's history with Leonard Bernstein, my longtime friend and colleague Richard B. Woodward called Steve "the wisest professor on the faculty (and the hardest grader)." Amen!