Sydney Morning Herald, January 20, 2006

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We play both kinds — country and classical

Bernard Zuel

For those still stuck in narrow-gauge thinking that says there's rock 'n' roll here, jazz there and classical music in the other corner and those twains are never meeting, Elvis Costello must be confounding.

The English-born, Irish-background, American-resident songwriter is better known as a rock, pop and country singer/songwriter who emerged from the aftermath of punk in the late '70s.

He was last in Australia in 2004 with his "beat group" the Imposters, playing loud and fast.

But the 51-year-old is the star turn of the Sydney Festival with three separate shows of startlingly diverse nature that range from a jazz orchestral score to classical song cycle to romantic pop ballads.

"It would be a dull old world if there was only one kind of song, only one kind of music, only one kind of approach," Costello said. "There is no absolute about music; there's just a lot of different ways, endless permutations and motivations to burst into song in any form. It is endless, which is much more a cause for optimism than pessimism."

The optimistic Costello's season begins tonight when he is joined by the string ensemble the Brodsky Quartet and the Australian soprano Antoinette Halloran to perform songs from the Costello/Brodsky collaboration The Juliet Letters, and selections from Costello's opera based on the life of Hans Christian Andersen.

Tomorrow, he returns to rehearsals with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in preparation for two nights featuring his first full orchestral score, Il Sogno, songs written alone and with Burt Bacharach and more.

Has he abandoned the musical forms that made his name and filled his teenage dreams in London and Liverpool?

"You can never write off even the simplest form of music, otherwise there would be no reason to play another blues

or write another country song," he said.

Confirmation of that may be in the fact that between the Brodsky and SSO shows, Costello and his long-time pianist Steve Nieve will perform songs old and new from the bulging catalogue.

"There isn't as much rock 'n' roll as on my last trip to Australia but everyone who's seen Steve Nieve and I will know there's a surprising amount of rock 'n' roll in that show," Costello explained, adding with a chuckle: "And there's even the occasional rock 'n' roll song in the Brodsky Quartet show, which is a bigger surprise."


Sydney Morning Herald, January 20, 2006

Bernard Zuel previews Elvis Costello and Steve Nieve with the Brodsky Quartet, Friday, January 20, with The Sydney Symphony, Tuesday and Wednesday, January 24 and 25, City Recital Hall and Opera House, Sydney, Australia.


2006-01-20 Sydney Morning Herald photo 01 ep.jpg
Photo by Edwina Pickles.


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