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Little Sondheim Music

February 06, 1988

If Stephen Sondheim's scores are perceived as overwritten (Saturday Letters, Jan. 30), it is the listener's inability to take in his multilayered inspirations all at once, or an unwillingness to be more than a casual "I-just-want-to-be-entertained" vegetable.

(Lloyd) Webber's "inspirations" are obvious at first blush, revealing little or nothing upon repetition; Sondheim's demand--and merit--thought, reflection and re-acquaintance.

Overpraised? Not by competent and insightful critics, salaried or not. Dull? If equal doses of passion and imagination make for boredom, pity the partaker.

As to the charge that Sondheim's shows have yielded no memorable songs, "Send In the Clowns" has more than established itself as an audience favorite, and Frank Sinatra thought enough of "Good Thing Going" ("Merrily We Roll Along") to grace it with his formidable pipes.

One brave reader analogized the Sondheim/(Lloyd) Webber feud to that of the Brahms/Wagner. A noble try, except that the disparate 19th-Century giants, unlike their 20th-Century counterparts, possessed comparable degrees of talent.

ADAM STERN

La Crescenta

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