University of Manitoba Manitoban, February 2, 2005

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Il Sogno

Elvis Costello and the London Symphony Orchestra

James Howard

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I'll be damned. He actually did write a ballet. I'm astounded.

Elvis Costello has written a lot of music over the course of his career — over 300 songs, according to the album's liner notes — but he'd never written a full orchestral composition. I don't know what motivated him to get up and write one, but sure enough, here we have a full score for a ballet adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. And, go figure, it turns out that he knew what he was doing.

Il Sogno, despite being a ballet, blends together a multitude of genres into a crazy but endearing amalgam of music. Some of the pieces are straight classical arrangements, others veer off into folk or swing, and some pieces sound torn from a film noir rather than a Shakespearean ballet. A couple of the tracks are freeform jazz, seemingly disconnected from any idea of ballet at all; I asked myself, on a couple of occasions, "How would anybody even dance to that?"

Regardless, it's obvious that Costello put a lot of thought and care into the orchestration and arrangement of this work. There are recurring melodic themes, thematic shifts for each state of existence, and other devices that pull the album together into a cohesive and satisfying whole. I highly recommend this album, not just as a worthwhile purchase for classical or ballet enthusiasts, but as a window of insight into Costello's head. Man, there's a lot of weird stuff in there.


The Manitoban, February 2, 2005

James Howard reviews Il Sogno.


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2005-02-02 University of Manitoba Manitoban page 17.jpg
Page scan.


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