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Review of Il Sogno
Sydney Star Observer, 2004-10-21
Matthew Page

Elvis Costello's Il Sogno: Michael Tilson Thomas and
the London Symphony Orchestra

By Matthew Page
Sydney Star Observer
Issue 736
Published 21/10/2004

Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream has received another outing, this time in the form of a ballet score, Il Sogno (The Dream), by the harmoniously austere Elvis Costello.

Costello apparently abhors comparison with other composers and their compositions when tracking the inspirational incentive for his own work, and mostly rightly so, but after repeated listening I need to get these names out of my head – Bach, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Stravinsky, Britten, Copland, Gershwin, Bernstein, Poulenc, Ravel, and film scorers Mancini and Williams.

Costello’s oeuvre usually contains elements of jazz, folk, punk, soul, bluegrass and rhythm and blues and there are traces of all these styles here as well as a new wistful bow being shown tripping along with the narrative fantasy. The gallantry of fanfares, hunting horns and ceremonial themes, whilst robust, tends to border on cliché, but fortunately is never completely trite. Perhaps the nature of ballet scores requires partial caricature to clarify dramatic intention and aid ease of understanding.

So come hang with the hippest Latin swaying fairies in the forest – the score is picturesque in detail, simple in its task and ultimately satisfying on its merry journey.