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Sweeney Todd Live at the New York Philharmonic Soundtrack

28 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Soundtrack, October 18, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The first complete recording of Stephen Sondheim's musical-theatre work since the 1979 original Broadway cast recording, and the first recording of the work by a symphony orchestra, captures the May 2000 New York Philharmonic concert performances in honor of Mr. Sondheim's 70th birthday, starring Patti LuPone, George Hearn and Audra McDonald. Directed by Tony Award winner Lonnie Price, the cast also includes John Aler, Davis Gaines, Neil Patrick Harris, Heidi Grant Murphy, Paul Plishka, Stanford Olsen and the New York Choral Artists.


For many, Sweeney Todd is Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece, a Grand Guignol musical-opera with an epic sweep. The original 1979 cast recording (starring Len Cariou, Angela Lansbury, and Victor Garber) remains definitive, but this version, assembled for three performances with the New York Philharmonic in May 2000, gives it a serious run for its money. Indeed, this live recording boasts Patti LuPone, George Hearn, Davis Gaines, Audra McDonald, and Heidi Grant Murphy; has been nominated for the 2002 Best Musical Show Album Grammy; and, last but not least, features that world-class orchestra. LuPone's English accent goes in and out, especially in the spoken passages, but no matter; she sings superbly. Her comic timing is impeccable, and her tendency to go over the top actually works in her favor in a show in which humor is of the gallows kind and blood flows freely. As for the Philharmonic, it'll make you even more bitter next time you're at a Broadway show where they try to cut corners by using a pared-down ensemble: The music's power could flatten trees. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

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Disc: 1
1. Prelude
2. The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (George Hearn, Company)
3. No Place Like London (Davis Gaines, George Hearn, Audra McDonald)
4. The Worst Pies in London (Patti LuPone)
5. Poor Thing (Patti LuPone)
6. Dialogue
7. My Friends (George Hearn, Patti LuPone)
8. Green Finch and Linnet Bird (Heidi Grant Murphy)
9. Ah, Miss (Davis Gaines, Heidi Grant Murphy, Audra McDonald)
10. Johanna (Davis Gaines)
See all 24 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. God, That's Good! (Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone, George Hearn, Company)
2. Johanna (Davis Gaines, George Hearn, Audra McDonald, Heidi Grant Murphy)
3. By The Sea (Patti LuPone, George Hearn)
4. Wigmaker Sequesnce (George Hearn, Davis Gaines)
5. The Letter (Quintet: Tania Batson, Jacqueline Pierce, James Bassi, Lewis White. Frank Barr)
6. Not While I'm Around (Neil Patrick Harris, Patti LuPone)
7. Dialogue
8. Parlor Songs (John Aler, Patti LuPone, Neil Patrick Harris)
9. Fogg's Asylum (Company)
10. City on Fire (Company)
See all 13 tracks on this disc

Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 18, 2000)
  • Original Release Date: October 18, 2000
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Soundtrack
  • Label: New York Phil. Special Editions
  • ASIN: B00005TQ11
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,522 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Hodges on November 17, 2003
Format: Audio CD
There is a lot to enjoy in this spectacular live recording, which captures the overflowing excitement of these performances. For those who were initially disappointed when Bryn Terfel bowed out of the title role, George Hearn stepped in and triumphed. If his voice isn't quite the powerhouse of Terfel's, Hearn is an equally commanding stage presence, and brings a lifetime of acting expertise to the fore.

As the slightly dotty Mrs. Lovett, Patti LuPone is excellent, and actually sings the difficult songs such as the dazzling "A Little Priest." As the flood of words cascades down, she catches every rhyme, shapes each phrase with expert comic timing, and further, nails all the notes. (No slight intended, in the least, to Angela Lansbury and her by now legendary work in this show.) The other cast members are also wonderful (including the marvelous Audra McDonald), and the entire evening is conducted with extravagant sweep and polish by Andrew Litton. The New York Philharmonic also sounds terrific, and again, their accuracy reveals the subtleties and complexities of Sondheim's score. Harmonically, there is a lot packed in here, and while the original cast recording had an excellent orchestra, the Philharmonic's musicians cope with the cascading rhythms with even more confidence.

The sound is very good, recorded from live performances. Now and then a cast member will be a bit too far from the microphones, or too close, but frankly this only adds to the spontaneous, "you are there" feeling.

Although the original cast recording has power and character to spare, this new one is a must for those who love the music itself. With the adrenalin running high (including the audience fairly roaring its approval), this is a great addition to the Sondheim canon and should give even a jaded listener much pleasure.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 9, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Although I am an enthusiastic fan of Mr. Sondheim's work, and a lover of the musical "Sweeney Todd", I had decided not to purchase the very pricey live recording of the NY Philharmonic concert version. (I find that these "concert performances" of great works usually leave much to be desired; particularly since they are always gravely under-rehearsed.) Happily, however, I received the CD as a Christmas gift: It is terrific.
It appears that most Sondheim fans loathe George Hearn's Sweeney. I, however, believe that his is the definitive interpretation of the role. I did see Len Cariou perform Sweeney (with Angela Lansbury) in the original Broadway run, and Cariou's Sweeney was very good; he was quiet, big, powerful and very scary. But what Hearn understands is what Cariou never got: Sweeney is, as Mrs. Lovett says, a bleeding little nobody. I recall wondering, throughout Cariou's performance, why doesn't this powerful and scary Sweeney just go to the judge's house at night and kill him; or get him on the street; why does he wait? Hearn, with his hand wringing and desperate emotional outbursts, understands why. Hearn also understands that Sweeney Todd is a melodrama, and what many see as "excesses" in Hearn's portrayal, I see as perfectly appropriate emotional levels for the character, and for the 19th Century operetta form.
I now own BOTH versions of Sweeney Todd, and am very glad about that.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By qmechanic on January 25, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I ordered this CD with great anticipation since I so ardently admire George Hearn's performance as Sweeney Todd. Unfortunately, the CD is marred by Patti Lupone's over-acting. Maybe it was too much for her to do Mrs. Lovett after only 3-4 days of frantic rehearsal (according to the included CD booklet). In particular, if you listen to songs like "The Worst Pies in London" and "A Little Priest", her voice jumps from singing to screeching. It's almost like she doesn't have control of her voice. Fortunately, Patti Lupone is much better on the DVD with the San Francisco Symphony (a year after the New York Philharmonic concerts). She sounds more comfortable with the role and tones down the acting. Both the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony concerts have pretty much the same cast, so get the DVD and if you want, you can rip the audio off the DVD. I feel like I wasted my money on this recording, but at least I got a nice booklet (130+ pages) with commentary, full libretto, and comments from the cast and production staff.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert Hagerty on December 30, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I'm not sure what CD the first two reviewers listened to, but it certainly couldn't have been this thrilling new recording of my favorite Sondheim show. I saw George Hearn as Sweeney on Broadway, and I never could have imagined he'd sing this role better than ever more than 20 years later.
As for Miss LuPone, she too may have never sounded better. It must be very daunting indeed to play Mrs. Lovett with everyone's memory of the amazing Angela Lansbury, but Patti LuPone makes it her own: a more sensual, earthier take on the character. "Not While I'm Around" has never been more simultaneously heartbreaking and creepy, which of course is how it's supposed to be.
Speaking of heartbreaking, that's the word I'd use for Neil Patrick Harris as well--far and away the best Tobey I've ever heard/seen (I watched this concert on PBS).
This recording is just as thrilling as the original Broadway cast recording, and it's essential for anyone who loves this show.
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