The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (99): Not your everyday Sondheim

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (99): Not your everyday Sondheim


norman lebrecht

June 23, 2020

How come I never heard this before?



  • Cubs Fan says:

    Wow! This has been around since 1975 or so. Great version, great song. Wonderful orchestration. Did you know Collins was a classically trained pianist? Studied with conductor Antonio Brico and made her debut playing a Mozart concerto when barely a teenager. Great lady.

    • Suzan Kaufmann says:

      AntoniA Brico – an early woman conductor before there were such creatures.
      I’ve always loved Collins’ rendition of this piece.

    • Lenore says:

      I would listen to this version while my mother played the original Broadway cast album (Glynnis Johns).unique interpretation for the times.

      • Philip Moores says:

        Glynnis Johns sang a stunning version on the Parkinson Show on BBC1, I guess in the late 70’s. So moving. Does anyone have it on VHS?!

    • Fliszt says:

      And don’t forget that in 1974 Judy Collins directed a documentary film about Antonia Brico, a most touching portrait of her teacher, which got an Academy Award nomination, and briefly relaunched Brico’s conducting career.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      Yes. As is Neil Sedaka who studied with Edgar Roberts in the Juilliard pre-college and then with Adele Marcus in the Juilliard upper division. Phyllis Diller was also a pianist and played with many orchestras in her early years.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    Lord knows how, it was a hit record for Judy. It is what made the song famous.

    • V.Lind says:

      First — and best – version I ever heard. Never heard of Sondheim — this was a Judy Collins song. All others later paled in comparison.

      Just goes to show — even Homer nods!

  • Joel Levine says:

    In the 1980s when this was a big hit for her, Judy was a guest artist with the Oklahoma Symphony. I had the pleasure of conducting for her and this was included. A great experience all around.

  • Jon Eiche says:

    Here in the States, this recording by “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes” was responsible for introducing Sondheim to a generation of teenagers whose musical tastes rarely strayed beyond Top-40 radio. Like me.

  • Miguel says:

    You weren’t born yet perchance? Otherwise difficult to explain. It is one of Judy Collins’ most important mainstream successes. It won a Song of the Year Grammy in 1976.

  • R. Brite says:

    This was my introduction to Sondheim. I expect it’s the same for many of my generation (boomer, alas). I haven’t heard it in ages. Thanks!

  • Fliszt says:

    In 1976 you couldn’t turn on an American radio without hearing this! The DJ’s spun it to death.

  • Bonnie Schwab says:

    I was fortunate to have heard Dr. Brico speak to a packed audience when I was in college. She spoke about her struggle as a woman conductor who, because of her gender, was denied her instrument. She spoke of her persistence and determination despite sexist classical music culture. At the conclusion of the speech, she ‘conducted’ the audience in chanting, “I shall not deflect from my course, I shall not deflect from my course.”

  • Tim Mathias says:

    She’s still going Norman – I saw her in January. And she’s still very good.

  • Augustine says:

    Frank Sinatra about 10 years after Judy:

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Not only was that a huge hit for Judy Collins, at least in the US of A, and unavoidable on the radio, but I recall a telecast where she sang it with the Boston Pops (and other songs of course) under Arthur Fiedler. Fiedler was in his last years and was more or less in his “lick the finger and turn the page” mode of conducting but by today’s standards that was pretty darn classy television.

    And Phyllis Diller played the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Milwaukee Symphony if I recall correctly, or at least a movement, perhaps the first. She also did “Ladies Who Lunch” at that same concert, apropos this topic.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      Phyllis played the first movement with many orchestras. She once sent the list of orchestras to me which I have somewhere about. Quite an extensive list!

      • Tiredofitall says:

        I heard Phyllis Diller play the first movement with the Fort Worth Symphony, I think in the late 70s. She was really quite good…it made an even greater impression that she was able deliver her (very funny) schtick while playing (all the notes). I hope one of these performances exist somewhere on video.

  • Bruce says:

    “How come I never heard this before?”

    No idea. It was ubiquitous in the US when I was a child in the mid-late 70s. Like so many others, I never heard of Sondheim until later; this was a Judy Collins song.

    Maybe it just never made it across the pond. I never heard of Vera Lynn until a few years ago.

    Might I submit another entry for the Comfort Zone? This is Simon & Garfunkel, from a live performance in 1969, singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Of course it’s wonderful, but the weird thing about this particular recording is the lack of audience reaction at the beginning.

    In later live performances, you hear the crowd start to go wild as soon as the piano intro starts. Here, there’s no reaction; and when Garfunkel says “This is another one of our new songs; it’s called Bridge Over Troubled Water,” nobody reacts. It makes sense when you think about it: nobody in the audience knows the song yet, because it’s brand new. They have no idea what’s about to happen. The first 15 seconds of the recording are kind of surreal. (The crowd does go bonkers at the end, though)

    • V.Lind says:

      Must have been magic to be there. The audience would sense that something momentous had just happened — hence that response.

      Thank you for this version. It is probably the one I had as a student, on my long-given-away vinyl.

    • Phil Davison says:

      Hi Bruce,
      It did make it over the pond. I was born in the early 60’s and know the song very well. Norman is a good bit older than me, however.

  • E. says:

    You are not alone. I never heard it before either. It’s quite wonderful.
    Sad, if you stay just with the lyrics, and don’t have the background.
    The play is based on an Ingmar Bergman film, whose title refers to Midsummer’s Night,
    which we’ve just passed. The plot is similar to Shakespeare’s « A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with couples forming and reforming. Bergman’s title is something like « the smiles of a mid-summer’s night. » Not just any summer’s night. So, the character whose
    music Judy sings can say, with confidence, « maybe next year, » because she will return to the theatre again, next year. Still, it’s a heart-breaking text, beautiful singing, and a beautiful singer.

    • psq says:

      … written by Sondheim for the 1973 musical A Little Night Music, an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night. It is a ballad from Act Two, in which the character Desirée reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life. ….

      Nearly anyone with a pulse would have heard of Judy Collins’ rendition that was a gigantic hit at that time, but most probably was not aware of it’s origin. Then one goes to the theatre to see A Little Night Music, and one’s heart stops when this music comes out of the proscenium. That’s what happened to me!