(Anthony Tommasini’s article appeared in The New York Times, 8/30; via Pam Green.)

Like many musicians who revere Stephen Sondheim, I’ve been struck again and again by his sheer musical brilliance. Often, when playing through one of his scores on the piano, I linger on some miraculous musical detail or passage. Like the end of the first phrase of “The Barber and His Wife” from “Sweeney Todd”: When Sweeney, recalling his wife, sings, “And she was beautiful,” the undulant accompaniment at the word “beautiful” stabs you with a subtly piercing dissonant chord. Stravinsky would have been proud to have written it.

So I’ve long wondered why Mr. Sondheim has never composed an instrumental piece — a piano suite, say, or a work for small ensemble.


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