Albert Sendrey

Arranger of MGM musicals
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The Independent Online

Albert Sendrey, composer, arranger and conductor: born Chicago 26 December 1911; married (two sons, three daughters); died Los Angeles 18 May 2003.

The orchestrator, arranger and composer Albert Sendrey was one of the many highly talented musicians who contributed to the sound of the great musicals of the Forties and Fifties. As a staff arranger at MGM for many years he worked on such films as Bathing Beauty, Neptune's Daughter, A Date with Judy, An American in Paris and High Society.

His orchestrations for television included series such as Bonanza, Wagon Train and Ben Casey, and he arranged the music for both television and stage versions of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin. He also spent many years as the singer Tony Martin's pianist, conductor and arranger, a capacity in which he also served for Las Vegas entertainers such as Marlene Dietrich, Donald O'Connor, Howard Keel and Jane Powell.

Born in Chicago in 1911, Sendrey grew up in a musically rarified atmosphere. His Hungarian-born father was Alfred Sendrey, noted opera and symphony conductor, composer and musicologist. His mother Eugenia had been a soprano at the Vienna Opera under Gustav Mahler. Sendrey himself became a protégé of Arnold Schoenberg. After attending music schools in Paris, London and New York, he gained his first film credit composing for a French film in 1933.

A letter of introduction from Schoenberg secured him work at the Hollywood Bowl in 1937, and a family friend who was working as Cole Porter's transcriber and arranger provided his entrée to the film studios. It was an era when every major studio had vast music departments with an incredible array of talent, and MGM's was perhaps the finest.

Its pool of gifted musicians included the arranging genius Conrad Salinger, and such experts as Johnny Green, Saul Chaplin, André Previn and David Raksin. Orchestrators such as Sendrey worked prolifically - he contributed to over 170 movies - but rarely received screen credit.

Sendrey worked with Green on the Sinatra movie It Happened in Brooklyn (1947), Fiesta (1947) starring Esther Williams and Royal Wedding (1951) with Fred Astaire, for which he orchestrated Conrad Salinger's arrangement of "You're All the World to Me", the song by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner to which Astaire danced on the walls and ceiling. For the Oscar-winning musical An American in Paris (1951) he orchestrated the café waltz "By Strauss" and George Guetary's "Nice Work if You Can Get It".

Sendrey's complete background scores included Father's Little Dividend (1951) and Kansas Pacific (1953), and he did virtually all the arrangements for the Jane Powell/ Debbie Reynolds musical Athena (1954). Later he worked on such big-budget musicals as Guys and Dolls (1955), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) and Finian's Rainbow (1968). On Broadway, he was an orchestrator for the revue New Faces of 1956, which introduced Maggie Smith to the New York stage.

In 1953 he started composing production numbers for Las Vegas hotels, collaborating with the songwriter Sammy Cahn and the comedy writer Sid Kuller, and in 1956 he began working as Tony Martin's pianist, conductor and arranger, a post he held until just over a year ago.

Tom Vallance

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