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Costello: Il Sogno
     

Costello: Il Sogno

 
Pop-music idol Elvis Costello takes a stab at the classics with Il Sogno (The Dream), an ambitious hour-long ballet score for symphony orchestra based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In composing music for the story, Costello joins august classical-music company: Benjamin Britten wrote an opera based on the

Overview

Pop-music idol Elvis Costello takes a stab at the classics with Il Sogno (The Dream), an ambitious hour-long ballet score for symphony orchestra based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In composing music for the story, Costello joins august classical-music company: Benjamin Britten wrote an opera based on the play, and Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music remains an orchestral staple -- although it's George Gershwin's concert music, the original classical crossover, that inevitably provides the closest comparison. Is Costello out of his league? Longhair skeptics will no doubt say yes, even with the rocker's track record of successfully pushing the bounds of pop and crossing the classical divide, most recently with Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter on the lovely For the Stars. Yet Sogno is a serious effort that reveals a composer adept at his modern classical idiom, and what's more, he's a skilled orchestrator as well. Following the play's plot points, the multi-movement score darts through a range of styles, now lyrical, now grand, now dancing, adding lively hints of jazz and rock for extra flavor. Saxophones and vibraphones complement the usual array of orchestral instruments and expand the ensemble colors, often to striking effect. On this premiere recording, Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra perform with a finesse normally afforded the masters, and even if Sogno comes up short in elevating Costello to "the next Gershwin" status, he's clearly well on his way to assuming that mantle. Stay tuned.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
Elvis Costello has advantages over some of his peers in popular music in attempting to cross over to classical music, as he does with his first orchestral composition, Il Sogno. Since he learned musical notation and has orchestrated his music himself, he is better able to control the final work than his sometime songwriting partner Paul McCartney, for example. And by accepting a commission from the Italian dance company Aterballetto to score their adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Il Sogno means "The Dream" in Italian), he has a work that gives him a dramatic structure and the further demand of accompanying dancers. These are useful limitations, and he has followed them strictly. His annotations on the play show that he has molded his music to the plot and characters, and even if the listener can't hear that in the score, there is a sense of form and development to the music. The ballet commission gives the work added functionality -- one is never too far from distinctly rhythmic material. But then, Costello brings from his popular music a sense of the need for music to command attention. Il Sogno is never a boring listen, something is always happening. A classical music fan, then, cannot criticize Costello for the usual reasons that pop composers venturing into classical music are criticized. But one criticism that can be made, from a conservative posture, is that, in achieving his effects, Costello is deliberately eclectic. He is not above borrowing a rhythmic idea from the pop song "On Broadway," as he does, for example, in "Oberon and Titania," and he has no problem introducing elements of swing jazz in "Puck 2," while leaving room for saxophonist John Harle to improvise. Also, he isn't always as restrained as he might be. A musical score for A Midsummer Night's Dream ought to be lighter and more playful than this one sometimes is; by the end, the music has taken on the contours of the soundtrack to a movie thriller, which is a bit more melodramatic than necessary. Nevertheless, Il Sogno is full of interesting themes and other musical ideas, along with striking contrasts of instruments, and it justifies both the commission and the London Symphony Orchestra's decision to record it.
New York Times - Jon Pareles
''Il Sogno'' is a rhapsodic work, following the plot's juxtapositions of characters by switching among courtly pomp, folkish lilt, sweeping romantic lines and jazzy swing, along with eerie sustained interludes. As tuneful themes recurred and intertwined, it was easy to imagine ''Il Sogno'' as the latter-day descendant of ballet scores: a film soundtrack.
Washington Post - Terry Teachout
Costello has channeled his thematic material into simple, formal structures that he uses in the disciplined manner of a bona fide classical composer.... Am I surprised? Totally. But if any rocker could pull off such an improbable feat, it's Elvis Costello, whose musical curiosity has always been boundless.
Newark Star-Ledger - Bradley Bambarger
"Il Sogno" is an ingeniously scored orchestral work by a composer who knows his Stravinsky and Prokofiev, as well as his Nino Rota and Gil Evans. Any music lover who appreciates those composers should warm to Costello's vivid score.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/21/2004
Label:
Deutsche Grammophon
UPC:
0028947157724
catalogNumber:
000328402

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Il Sogno, ballet after Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night’s Dream"  - Elvis Costello  - Michael Tilson Thomas  -  London Symphony Orchestra  - Peter Erskine  - John Harle  - Christopher Laurence

Album Credits

Performance Credits

London Symphony Orchestra   Performing Ensemble
Peter Erskine   Percussion
Chris Laurence   Double Bass
Michael Tilson Thomas   Conductor
John Harle   Saxophone
Christopher Laurence   Double Bass

Technical Credits

Elvis Costello   Composer,Liner Notes,Executive Producer
Mike Cox   Engineer
Mark Seliger   Cover Photo
Fred Munzmaier   Art Direction
Roland Heap   Engineer
Mark Buecker   Engineer
Sid McLauchlan   Producer
Radoslaw Szulc   Orchestra Leader
Vaughan Sinclair   Liner Notes

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