Elvis Costello With The London Symphony Orchestra – Il Sogno

Rock purists derided Costello when he first flirted with classical forms 11 years ago, but his Brodsky Quartet collaboration The Juliet Letters still sounds like a bold career swerve. It could even be considered a punk statement in its bare-faced arrogance (stop sniggering at the back). Countless eclectic excursions later, Costello returned to Shakespeare in 2000 when an Italian dance troupe commissioned him to score a ballet based on A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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Rock purists derided Costello when he first flirted with classical forms 11 years ago, but his Brodsky Quartet collaboration The Juliet Letters still sounds like a bold career swerve. It could even be considered a punk statement in its bare-faced arrogance (stop sniggering at the back). Countless eclectic excursions later, Costello returned to Shakespeare in 2000 when an Italian dance troupe commissioned him to score a ballet based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An hour-long condensation of that score recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, Il Sogno may invite more sneers for its vaulting pretensions. But it still makes for very easy light-orchestral listening, rich in airy melody and playful pastiche. It’s not even classical in the old-school sense. There are echoes of Debussy but also of Gershwin and golden-age Hollywood soundtracks, plus recurring swing-jazz flourishes that recall Costello’s last album, North. Hardly a major work, but another pleasantly competent string to his bow. Literally.

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