How Classical Music Shaped Sondheim’s Songs

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim has helped to create some of Broadway’s greatest stage shows. But he says the world of classical music is behind some of his deepest influences, including such composers as Sergei Rachmaninoff and Joseph-Maurice Ravel.

Sondheim, 82, studied classical music as an undergraduate at Williams College, then studied composition with composer Milton Babbitt. 

On Saturday, he said that soon after he completed his most famous song, “Send in the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music,” he thought, “Gee, that sounds familiar,” seeing the influence of Rachmaninoff. 

When  Mark Eden Horowitz, a senior music specialist at the Library of Congressasked about Ravel’s influence, Sondheim replied, “Have you heard ‘Sweeney Todd’?”

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