SWEENEY TODD, COMPANY, INTO THE WOODS, And ASSASSINS Remastered Recordings Now Available From Sony Masterworks

The last legacy project Stephen Sondheim consulted on propels his iconic recordings into a new era with immersive audio.

By: Aug. 11, 2023
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Fans of Stephen Sondheim will have a new way of exploring and enjoying four of his classic original cast recordings -- Company, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Into the Woods and Assassins – with newly remixed and remastered editions in both Sony's 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos immersive audio experiences, available through supported digital and streaming service providers. These innovative releases are the last legacy project on which iconic composer and lyricist himself consulted. All four titles are available via Sony Masterworks Broadway.

Sony's 360 Reality Audio format – available to listeners via Amazon Music Unlimited and TIDAL HiFi – is a new immersive music experience that allows listeners to immerse themselves in a field of sound, using any pair of headphones. Individual sounds such as vocals, chorus, piano, guitar, bass and even sounds of the live audience can be placed in a 360 spherical sound field, giving artists and creators a new way to express their creativity.  Dolby Atmos – available via Apple Music, Amazon Music and TIDAL – is an immersive music experience that adds more space, clarity, and depth to your music.  Instead of just hearing your music, it feels like you are inside the song. 

Sondheim auditioned and advised on the new immersive masters for Company, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods prior to his death on November 26, 2021, and he had consulted on plans for the Assassins reissue. These new editions were co-produced by Didier C. Deutsch, a leading figure in the curation of Broadway recordings, and Peter E. Jones, archivist for The Sondheim Foundation.

“I think the recordings themselves are considered definitive, being that they are the 'world premiere' versions, never to be heard quite the same way again, as revivals change many things like the orchestrations,” Jones says. “Having been successfully translated into these new audio formats makes them even more definitive, and they will remain so until the next innovation comes along that can translate them to yet another generation of listeners. That very idea alone was important to Sondheim, and I think he'd be pleased with how splendid this first series has turned out.”

Throughout these new editions, fans of Sondheim's work will find incidental new details that surfaced when the masters were re-explored – such as the few seconds that begin “Tick Tock” on the Company recording which had been cut from the original LP release and previous reissues. 

Jones says that these new editions liberate the original recordings from stereo's basic left-center-right sonic staging. “These spatial editions have the advantage of explicitly moving the action up and down and back to front as well as from left to right,” he says, “so the listener is given a three-dimensional experience versus the usual two-dimensional one – an experience that supports the story being told. Also, the higher audio resolution will treat the listener familiar with the original releases to subtle details unable to be heard in these recordings until now.”

“The new spatial audio technology greatly enhances the storytelling aspect of a cast recording,” notes Scott Farthing, SVP of Sony Masterworks Broadway.  “As a fan who has listened to these albums for decades, I wept hearing numerous new sonic details that had emerged and came away with even more appreciation for these legendary scores.” 

Joining Deutsch and Jones as producers in the studio were Ronald Prent, who was also the mixing engineer, and Darcy Proper, the remastering engineer. Working from analogue (Company and Sweeney Todd) and digital (Into the Woods and Assassins) masters, they sought to heighten the spatial environment and the theatrical immediacy captured in the original material, as well as enhancing the overall sound in this new context.

“First and foremost, we wanted to keep the intent of the shows intact,” Proper says of the possibilities in immersive remixing. “You want the effects to add to the music without being a distraction. The idea is to expand it beyond what has been possible with stereo so far. We wanted to make it more immersive and engaging, making it easier for the listener to hear and feel the action without them thinking too much about the technology.”

“Sondheim had explicit trust in our production ensemble with us having created previous projects such as The Story So Far box set which he was very pleased with,” Jones adds. “He kept tabs on our progress and was excited that these stalwart cast recordings would re-emerge not as just the next set of reissues, but with a whole new audio expression.”

Assassins, Company and Into the Woods have recently been revived, to great acclaim, in exciting new stagings (on Broadway and off) in New York, as well as the forthcoming Broadway production of Sweeney Todd starring Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford. Grammys were awarded to Company (1971), Sweeney Todd (1980) and Into the Woods (1989) in the category now known as Best Musical Theater Album, and the recording of the original Off-Broadway cast of Assassins was nominated for the award in 1992.

Sony Masterworks Broadway is home to the definitive recorded legacy of Stephen Sondheim's work, beginning with West Side Story. Since its inception, the label has enjoyed a rewarding association with Sondheim and his musicals. For email updates and information please visit www.sonymusicmasterworks.com/.


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