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Stephen Sondheim's 'Sweeney Todd' Inducted into Library of Congress National Recording Registry

By Jon Sobel j.sobel@classicalite.com on Apr 05, 2014 04:31 PM EDT

Each year, the U.S. Library of Congress adds a selection of historically significant recordings to its National Recording Registry. One of this year's honorees is the original 1979 Broadway cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's hit Broadway musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The octogenarian composer/lyricist commented on the honor:

"As a composer who has been both informed and influenced by sound recordings, I feel passionately that they are a heritage too easily lost, and one which requires all due diligence to preserve. It is important to remember that not only do recordings capture individual performances, scores and arrangements but also a great deal of music which was never written down."

Thomas Z. Shepard, producer of the Sweeney Todd cast recording, has said he conceived of it "to a large degree, as re-creating an old-time radio program...you should be able to close your eyes and get a fairly satisfying dramatic experience."

Fairly satisfying, indeed. Over a career spanning more than half a century, Sondheim has never stopped being cultural news:

Item: Bernadette Peters, the pre-eminent interpreter of his songs, is busy performing the Sondheim songbook in concert.

Item: A London theatergoer attending a revival of Sondheim and Richard Rodgers' 1964 flop Do I Hear A Waltz? used the comment section below the Guardian's review to post a back-of-the-Village Voice style romantic query, using his "Sondheimite" knowledge in hopes of impressing his intended.

Item: And speaking of obscure musicals, Do I Hear A Waltz? and a huge assortment of other cast albums have joined the latest techno-generation of music, streaming on Spotify through Masterworks Broadway's website.

Side by side with Sondheim in the latest batch of 25 National Recording Registry inductees are singles by Elmore James and the Everly Brothers; albums by Aaron Copland, Art Blakey, U2 and Isaac Hayes; a 1942 episode of the pioneering radio show (and later television show) The Goldbergs; and the presidential recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson, among many others.

Go forth and listen.

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TagsStephen Sondheim, Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Library of Congress

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