Costello knows his way around an orchestra. The writing is full of color and variety, and solo instruments get their fair share of the spotlight - a beguiling trumpet song in the second movement still lingers.
Costello weiß, wie man Orchestermusik schreibt. Die Musik ist farbig und abwechslungsreich, die Soloinstrumente kommen angemessen zur Geltung eine betörende Trompetenmelodie aus dem zweiten Satz lässt einen nicht los.
Costello connaît bien l'orchestre. L'écriture est pleine de couleur et de variété, et les instruments solistes sont chacun à leur tour sous les projecteurs - un séduisant air de trompette dans le deuxième mouvement résonne encore.
Concert Review /
New York Post / 19. July 2004
Mr. Costello is ceaselessly curious about music. He is inquisitive enough not just to listen widely, but to learn the makings of every idiom that moves him . . .
Costellos musikalische Neugier ist unerschöpflich. Er ist wissbegierig genug, sich nicht nur die verschiedensten Dinge anzuhören, sondern auch die Machart jedes Genres zu erlernen, das ihn interessiert . . .
Costello est d'une inlassable curiosité musicale - au point non seulement d'écouter beaucoup, mais aussi d'apprendre le fonctionnement de tout langage qui le touche . . .
Concert Review /
The New York Times / 19. July 2004
. . . this former angry young man has grown into perhaps the most adventurous and accomplished musical polymath of our times . . . It is almost skittish in flavour, light and playful and entirely lacking in the kind of darkness that characterises Costello's songwriting. It is as if, liberated from his black lyrical sensibility, he has abandoned himself to the delightful possibilities of instrumental music . . . "Il Sogno" shifts its musical terrain from Debussy-like harmonies to Leonard Bernstein-flavoured jazz and swing, making references to Broadway musicals as much as to the classics . . . it abundantly displays the musical diversity that has become Costello's hallmark.
. . . dieser einst zornige junge Mann hat sich zum vielleicht mutigsten und vollendetsten musikalischen Universaltalent unserer Zeit entwickelt . . . Die Musik ist geradezu übermütig, federleicht und verspielt, ganz ohne jene düsteren Züge, die Costellos Songs kennzeichnen. Befreit vom dunklen Charakter seiner Lyrik, überlasst er sich offenkundig den reichen Möglichkeiten der Orchestermusik . . . "Il Sogno" bewegt sich musikalisch von Debussy'scher Harmonik bis zu Jazz und Swing à la Leonard Bernstein, Anspielungen auf Broadway Musicals sind ebenso häufig wie auf die Klassiker . . . überall zeigt sich die musikalische Vielseitigkeit, die zu Costellos Markenzeichen geworden ist.
Cet ancien jeune homme en colère est sans doute devenu le musicien universel le plus aventureux et le plus accompli de notre temps [...]. La musique est de saveur fantasque, légère et enjouée, entièrement dépourvue de ces couleurs sombres qui caractérisent les chansons de Costello. C'est comme si, libéré de sa noire sensibilité lyrique, il s'abandonnait aux agréables possibilités de la musique instrumentale [...]. Le langage musical d'«Il Sogno» passe d'harmonies debussystes au jazz et au swing à la Leonard Bernstein, avec des allusions aux comédies musicales de Broadway tout autant qu'aux classiques [...]. On y trouve abondamment toute cette variété musicale qui est devenue la signature de Costello."
Concert Review /
Neil McCormick ,
Daily Telegraph (London) / 20. July 2004
Il Sogno is a rhapsodic piece full of shifting moods, with moments of eerie delicacy and of comic pomp.
The New York Times / 13. July 2004
["North":] . . . a jazzy, piano-based song cycle on love lost and found.
Record Review /
Staten Island Advance / 08. April 2004
. . . a very appealing and fresh sounding stand-alone work . . . Michael Tilson Thomas leads the London Symphony Orchestra in a brilliant performance . . . there's absolutely nothing to complain about in terms of interpretation or playing, and the sound, from Abbey Road Studios, is similarly beyond cavil . . . What he (Costello) has done is write an excellent and imaginative dance piece, giving us a very promising "classical music" debut that deserves to be treated with respect and listened to with pleasure.
Record Review /
ClassicsToday.com / 01. September 2004
The LSO and Michael Tilson-Thomas exult in the work's textures and climaxes. The milieu is more cinematic than symphonic but this beguiling confection is light-years beyond most pop-classical crossover attempts.
Record Review /
Amazon.com / 01. September 2004
"Il 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.
Record Review /
EJ Johnson ,
Barnes & Noble / 01. September 2004
. . . he has blossomed into the most broad-minded music-maker in contemporary pop . . .
Record Review /
New York Daily News / 12. September 2004
An ambitious classical piece . . . an adventurous and almost skittish blend of jazz, swing and classical.
Record Review /
Daily Telegraph (London) / 16. September 2004
there are some great dramatic moments, as in the crashing strangeness and rage of "The Jealousy of Helena" or"Workers' Playtime", where Bottom's theme comes charging in like an ass, sparring with the other characters' motifs . . . the way he interweaves his themes as the action progresses is a revelation. Arching over all of it too is his sense of melody.
Record Review /
The Observer (London) / 19. September 2004
"Il Sogno" is classic Elvis Costello . . . good enough to reward attention even if it were by an unknown composer . . . The music is rhythmically lively, as dance music must be. It is full of character and storytelling, and the orchestration is skillful, unusual, and colorful . . . Costello's fans will recognize him here, and discover more of him.
Record Review /
Boston Globe / 21. September 2004
Pop's most relentless eclectic has outdone himself by releasing two vastly different recordings at once and scoring on both counts. The instrumental "Il Sogno" . . . brims with the bittersweet melodicism and alternately playful and wistful wit that have distinguished his work as a singer/songwriter. And the London Symphony Orchestra handles Costello's orchestrations, which nod to jazz and jazz-influenced composers such as George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein, with grace and vitality.
Record Review /
USA Today / 21. September 2004
No rock musician can aspire to serious auteur status these days, it seems, without undertaking a big classical composition -- oratorio, opera, symphony, what have you. The only catch is that most of them haven't a clue how to go about it. Elvis Costello does. "Il Sogno" ("The Dream"), an evening-length ballet score based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," is the one product of this odd recent trend that's actually worth the staff paper it's written on . . . an expansive, colorful and often striking creation, done with all the imaginative flair and restless precision of Costello's rock efforts. And on the Deutsche Grammophon recording that hits stores today, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, the various episodes of Costello's score sparkle and shine like the pages of a glossily illustrated book of fairy tales . . . What's most striking, though, is Costello's command of the orchestra. "Il Sogno" alternates between richly idiomatic traditional sonorities and skillful grafts from elsewhere, including a jazz band and the tinkly, percussive sound of the cimbalom. If this is really just scoring by ear, Costello's untutored facility is prodigious. But then, it always has been. From the beginning of his career, Costello has been a consummate classicist, less interested in innovation than in mastering and refining an ever-wider range of musical languages -- from punk rock to country, from pop ballads to art songs. There was no reason to expect anything less from him in this new arena.
Record Review /
San Francisco Chronicle / 21. September 2004
Costello treats listeners to a classical adventure . . . "Il Sogno" -- literally, "The Dream" -- is a kaleidoscope of musical styles and a narrative fantasy story tour de force. . . Costello's sense of dramatic pace and timing reveals his maturity and wisdom as a composer . . . "Il Sogno" is a surprisingly stunning, diverse and lovely orchestral composition, and if listeners can't find Waldo, they can find Costello -- whose true inspiration comes not just from one musical style, but from all the world's music.
Record Review /
Orlando Sentinel / 21. September 2004
. . . Costello's sound is surprisingly fresh. His melodies are memorable and untrivial. The sudden swings into jazz prove pure delight. Tilson Thomas' performance is tops, bursting with life.
Record Review /
Los Angeles Times / 27. September 2004
Record Review /
Music Week (London) / 02. October 2004
. . . rock's most eloquent nerd isn't gettinger older, he's getting bolder . . . he's had the gall to keep going on the strength of musical exploration.
Record Review /
Newsweek / 01. November 2004
Very easy light-orchestral listening, rich in airy melody and playful pastiche . . . Another competent string to his bow. Literally.
Record Review /
Uncut / 01. November 2004
Elvis Costello is something of a musical chameleon. Indeed, his ability to write in a variety of styles was manifest in his brilliant early albums . . . The singer/songwriter's keen ear for stylistic detail has aided him in "Il Sogno" too -- a fluent and melodically attractive ballet based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The scoring is generally skilful, and tracks like 'Oberon humbled' show that Costello has mastered the fine art of thematic transformation. "Il Sogno" is constructed, like so many of its balletic predecessors, from small, discrete sections, with several themes woven throughout the score to provide coherence . . . Costello fans -- and I count myself among them -- will likely want to hear "Il Sogno" in its entirety . . . the performance here leaves nothing to be desired. Michael Tilson Thomas and the LSO make the most of the score's gauzy delicacy and tender lyricism, and DG's recording is exceptionally vivid and well-balanced.
Record Review /
Gramophone (London) / 01. November 2004
The result is nothing like you might have expected from Costello, laid back, jazzy, and, as I say, romantic.
Record Review /
Sensible Sound / 01. January 2005
Snappily performed and with an airy recorded sound, this project will certainly show Costello's admirers a new aspect of his restlessly inventive musical thinking.
Record Review /
BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. January 2005
Costello¿s light, modest touch is a pleasant surprise . . . No question about it -- Costello is a talented musician, and ¿Il sogno¿ is an hour well spent.
Record Review /
Fanfare (Tenafly, NJ) / 01. March 2005
To hear one of the world's great orchestras . . . luxuriating in this unusual score is a rare treat . . . It is remotely possible that the Italian ballet may be seen over here, but it will never sound anywhere near as gloriously as it does on this splendid recording. Elvis lives!
Record Review /
Morning Call (Allentown, PA) / 02. April 2005
. . . Play the lion too . . . He's been poaching in classical fields for years. Now Elvis Costello has written a ballet after Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream". It's his first work for orchestra, and as of yesterday it can be found in record shop bins. You'll have to search for it there: in the "Classical" section, under "Ballet" or the composer's name, because normally you'd expect to find him in the "Pop" section. If the connections between rock clichés and classical doodling forged by the pioneers of "classic rock" still deserve attention as a disrespectfully creative play with quotations, their original works have almost always been disappointing because of a lack of depth. Elvis Costello is another calibre altogether. The Englishman, who just turned 50, has been one of the great quick-change artists in pop music for nearly three decades. No one else has produced such a wide-ranging body of work. It stretches from late punk via early soul and rock to country jazz, backward to swing and forward to a grasp of new music which, needless to add, transcends genres precisely because it makes no distinctions between "serious" and "light" music. If we were to try to pigeonhole Costello's composing with a single category, it would have to be "song". This is the radius vector that leads him through every kind of music. And yet the genre of song finds no place in his first orchestral composition. It was a commission from the Italian ballet company Aterballetto, who asked Costello to write Shakespeare music for dancing. "Il Sogno" (The Dream) had its premiere four years ago in Bologna, played by the local orchestra. A recording of their performance served the company when they took the ballet to Germany, France, Russia and America. For the new recording with the London Symphony Orchestra, Costello revised the music in collaboration with conductor and (classical) composer Michael Tilson Thomas. In this version there's nothing left that could conceivably distract from the music's purely expressive values. It can be listened to as a translation of the play's marvellous verbal melodies as well as a musicalization of its characters, both groups and couples. Costello makes use of techniques that have been standard practice for ages in programmatic music: pompous orchestral gestures for the court, folk dances for the rude mechanicals, and he makes the realms of the fairies and elves float ethereally. Explosive tuttis alternate with soloistic passages - the sonic possibilities of the orchestral instruments are put on exhibition. If that's all there were to it, Costello's ballet music would be no more than a conventional composition, dressed in the familiar attire of earlier masters. In fact the attentive listener will need several hearings to take in all its many facets. Concealed under long stretches of smooth surface are numerous little provocations which are set off in the work like fireworks - in constantly new and dazzling wreaths of colour. The casualness with which a chopping board becomes a solo instrument, the way a rock drummer urges the orchestra on, the saxophone snarls and impressionistically misty sounds invade the music - all these are more than mere effects. They are integral elements in a work that demands to be taken on its own terms: as a brave attempt to discover new territory between the notes, spurred on by a tireless explorer of sounds who, to the benefit and delight of unprejudiced listeners, cares not a whit about so-called boundaries.
Record Review /
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / 21. September 2004
Herausgekommen ist eine lässige, niemals nachlässige Komposition, die handwerklich gekonnt das London Symphony Orchestra zum Swingen bringt.
Record Review /
Die Zeit (Hamburg) / 07. October 2004
Sein technisch penibel ausgeleuchtetes Opus "Il Sogno" entpuppt sich unter Michael Tilson Thomas als spannender Stilmix. So kreuzt der Engländer Prokofieffs Erbe mit Jazz und Avantgarde. Verhangene Streicher zelebrieren die Hochzeit, ein cooles Vibrafon wiegt in den Schlaf. Costello als Ballettkomponist -- ein starkes Debüt.
Record Review /
Otto Paul Burkhardt,
Audio (Stuttgart) / 01. November 2004
Nach den überragenden, intimen "Juliet Letters" mit dem Brodsky Streichquartett überzeugt der wohl vielseitigste aktuelle Pop-Songwriter Elvis Costello auch in der symphonischen Großform, genauer: mit Ballettmusik nach Shakespeares "Sommernachtstraum" . . . kunstvolle Unterhaltungsmusik mit keckem Charme: Respekt!
Record Review /
Stereoplay (Stuttgart) / 01. November 2004
. . . le Britannique n'a rien perdu de sa fertilité mélodique légendaire et s'est honorablement acquitté de la tâche . . . ils se promènent avec une application touchante dans cet univers bigarré, louvoyant entre mariachis et génériques de feuilletons américains.
Record Review /
Diapason (Paris) / 01. November 2004
Booklettext "Il Sogno"
“I was extremely surprised to be asked to write music for dancing," Elvis Costello confesses. “In truth I knew very little about that world. When a very serious French publication inquired, 'Who is your favourite dancer?', I had replied honestly, 'Cyd Charisse'."
The creation of Il Sogno began in 2000, when the Italian dance company Aterballetto approached Elvis Costello to provide music for their adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The recorded work retains the name derived from the play's translated title, Sogno di una notte di mezza estate. Following a visit to see the company give an impressive performance in their hometown of Reggio Emilia, Costello met with choreographer and artistic director Mauro Bigonzetti and his colleagues Nicola Lusuardi and Karl Burnett and accepted their commission.
Elvis Costello: “I wanted to distinguish the different forms of existence in the play with contrasting music. The people of the court are accompanied by the grander orchestral gestures and an element of pomp and musical parody, while the workers are announced by folk dances and marches. When it came to the supernatural beings, I thought it only appropriate that they should be swinging fairies. As the story unfolds and the characters undergo their transformations, these different threads of music become entwined."
Forever associated in many minds with a handful of fine pop singles and rock-and-roll albums, Costello has followed his curiosity into a number of unlikely musical adventures. Collaborations with the Brodsky Quartet, Burt Bacharach and Anne Sofie von Otter have all found a place in his large catalogue of recordings that began in 1977.
In the last ten years much of this work has only existed in the concert hall. Following the 1992 release of The Juliet Letters and subsequent tours with the Brodsky Quartet, Costello began arranging and composing songs for chamber groups and small orchestras. His work for the Composer's Ensemble, Fretwork, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Charles Mingus Orchestra, the Swedish Radio Symphony and the composition of Three Distracted Women, a set of songs for Anne Sofie von Otter and the Brodsky Quartet, often ran parallel to recordings and appearances with his rock-and-roll groups, the Attractions and the Imposters and concert tours with pianist Steve Nieve.
While Costello's earlier experiments in arranging were carried out in the recording studio by trial and error, with the more complex written orchestrations being delegated to professional arrangers, the concert work was undertaken after he had finally got to grips with the mysteries of musical notation in the early 90s. Having already written over 200 songs, Costello began exploiting his ability to communicate with a wider range of musicians from different disciplines. This new arrangement and compositional style, in which classical instrumentation was married to elements of the jazz ensemble, culminated in Costello's orchestrations for the album North, which could be said to lead the listener's ear to the more delicate passages in Il Sogno.
In the summer of 2000, Costello began composing material suggested by Aterballetto's written descriptions of the proposed dances, representing the characters and events of Shakespeare's narrative in music without employing his language. He quickly dismissed the idea that he should include any songs in the production. “I also deliberately set aside modern composing methods involving computers, preferring a pencil and paper. The 200-page score was completed in approximately ten weeks, the latter 170 pages being written against the pressures of a deadline directly into full score. My orchestrations may not obey certain conventions, but they sound just as I imagined them. I have learned by listening. I'm just using common sense and writing down what I want to hear. I don't come in and pretend to know more than I do."
Rehearsals for the first performance were not entirely without comic interludes: celesta players who disappeared without warning leaving dancers making unaccompanied entrances and the failure on the part of the inexperienced “orchestral composer" to appreciate the difference between a jazz drummer and an orchestral percussionist being asked to play “time". Costello recalls: “Due to a breakdown of communication, I arrived in Bologna to find a harpsichord sitting in the orchestra but not a hammer dulcimer in sight. The orchestral management had assumed the request for a 'cimbalom' was a misspelling of 'cembalo'. Only days before the opening night, a Romanian traditional folk musician was located working in a restaurant in Rome. He didn't read music but managed to memorize much of the intended part."
The premiere of the dance production took place at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna on 31 October 2000. It was also staged at a number of other Italian houses. The Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale made a recording of the first draft score for the purposes of taking the Aterballetto production to venues that could not accommodate live music. Over the next couple of years, the company used taped accompaniment to perform the work in theatres and dance studios throughout Germany, France, Russia and for a performance at the Orange County Center for the Performing Arts in Southern California.
“The opportunity to work with Aterballetto and the orchestra in Bologna," Costello says, “is one for which I will always be thankful. The fact that Mauro and his colleagues believed that I could write this music took away any fear and doubt that I might have had about attempting to write something on this scale. It is an overwhelming experience to sit in a darkened theatre and hear music that one has imagined performed by orchestra, and to see it motivate and support the action on stage. Any momentary frustrations on my part were more than balanced by the many elements of the score that I immediately wanted to re-consider. I am extremely fortunate that such an opportunity presented itself when Deutsche Grammophon decided to make this recording."
Indeed, Costello now had the chance to re-fashion the score as a purely musical work. He was introduced to the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, who began running a critical eye over the music and encouraged him to get the very best out of his material: “We would read through the cues bar by bar and Michael would say, 'What is happening in this passage? There's no activity there'. I'd say, 'That's where the dancers do something very active against a background of still music', and he had to remind me, 'The dancers won't be there!' In the end, I tried to create a piece of music to which people might respond without any visual cues. I took out a lot of repetitions demanded by the choreography, re-orchestrated some passages and composed several new transitions and resolutions."
Costello adds: “The score already featured someof my favourite instruments, including the cimbalom and the vibraphone, but for the recording I approached John Harle to play newly added soprano saxophone solos that are partly notated and partly improvised. I also invited the jazz drummer Peter Erskine to play on the cues representing the enchanted beings and their influence upon the lovers."
The recording was made in Studio One at Abbey Road, London over four days in April 2002. Costello attended the daytime sessions at which he consulted with Tilson Thomas and Deutsche Grammophon producer Sid McLauchlan. “I should like to thank the members of the LSO for their generosity and their most elegant and sympathetic performance, and particularly for being tolerant of me singing the phrasing that I had intended on the few occasions that my notation was found to be wanting. Needless to say, my most special thanks go to MTT, who couldn't have been more helpful and encouraging. I think he has conducted the music with tremendous wit and understanding."
Tilson Thomas was intrigued by Costello's music, and impressed by his creative energy: “I think he just uses his ears intrepidly. There's a lot of jazz in this score, and there are parts that sound quite impressionistic or Russian. Elvis has imagined the characters in Shakespeare's play having come from different worlds: from pop or jazz or classical. He keeps coming back to these unusual Debussy-like harmonies that begin the piece. They're always there in some way."
Costello is not making any grand claims: “I am not attempting to depart completely from recognizable forms or propose some entirely unprecedented musical language just because this is a new composition. There are elements of parody and humour in the piece, as well as passages representing confusion, jealousy, anger and turmoil. These cues have the edges, angles that I go looking for in rock-and-roll, but the way they are achieved is utterly different. I think there are also moments of tenderness and beauty, where the emotions of the lovers come through. Having now written over 300 songs, this is my first full orchestral composition. Naturally, I hope it appeals to all my favourite parts of the human being. It is for the listener to decide what they take away from it."
Presstext "Il Sogno"
“I think he just uses his ears intrepidly", says conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas. “There's a lot of jazz in this score, and there are parts that sound quite impressionistic or Russian. Elvis has imagined the characters in Shakespeare's play having come from different worlds: from pop or jazz or classical. He keeps coming back to these unusual Debussy-like harmonies that begin the piece. They're always there in some way."
Tilson Thomas is standing on the balcony in Abbey Road's Studio One. Below him, the instruments and music stands of the London Symphony Orchestra are arranged around the lofty, wood-panelled room where Sir Edward Elgar and The Beatles once stood. Today's artist-in-residence is Elvis Costello, recording his first full-length orchestral composition, a ballet score entitled, Il Sogno. Tilson Thomas, a familiar face on the LSO podium, is conducting the recording.
Collaborations with the Brodsky Quartet, Burt Bacharach and Anne Sofie von Otter have all found a place in a large recording catalogue that began in 1977. Forever associated in many minds with a handful of fine pop singles and rock-and-roll albums, Costello has followed his curiosity into a number of unlikely musical adventures.
In the last ten years this work has sometimes only existed in the concert hall. Following the 1992 release of The Juliet Letters and subsequent tours with the Brodsky Quartet, Costello began arranging and composing songs for chamber groups and small orchestras. His work for the Composer's Ensemble, Fretwork, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Charles Mingus Orchestra, the Swedish Radio Symphony and the composition of Three Distracted Women, a set of songs for Anne Sofie von Otter and the Brodsky Quartet, often ran parallel to recordings and appearances with his rock-and-roll group, the Imposters and concert tours with pianist Steve Nieve.
While Costello's earlier experiments with arrangement were carried out in the recording studio by trial and error, with the more complex written orchestrations being delegated to professional arrangers, the concert work was written after he had finally got to grips with the mysteries of musical notation in the early 90s. This arrangement and compositional style, in which classical instrumentation was joined to elements of the jazz ensemble, culminated in the still and subtle shifts of tone and colour in Costello's orchestrations for the album North.
That record remained at the top of the Billboard Traditional Jazz chart for several weeks following its release in September 2003, to the amazement of the artist who never imagined that a collection of melancholic, piano-led art songs could qualify as a “jazz record", despite the presence of several jazz players on the sessions. The writing on North could be said to lead the ear of the listener to the more delicate passages in Il Sogno, although the compositional scope and dynamic range is obviously much greater and more varied in this full-scale orchestral work.
The creation of Il Sogno began in 2000, when he was approached by the Aterballetto dance company of Reggio Emilia in Italy. “I was extremely surprised to be asked," says Costello. “I had little or no understanding of the world of dance. When asked by a very serious French publication, 'Who is your favourite dancer?' I replied honestly, 'Cyd Charisse'." “However, when I went to Reggio Emilia and saw the company at work and met with their choreographer, Mauro Bigonzetti, I happily agreed to provide the musical score for their adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Sogno di una notte di mezza estate)."
Working with written descriptions of the proposed dances, Costello set about representing the characters and events of Shakespeare's narrative in music without employing his language. He quickly dismissed the idea that he should include any songs in the production. “I wanted to distinguish the different forms of existence in the play with contrasting music. The people of the court are accompanied by the grander orchestral gestures and an element of musical parody, while the workers are announced by folk dances and marches. When it came to the supernatural beings, I thought it only appropriate that they should be swinging faeries."
“As the story unfolds and the characters undergo their transformations, these different threads of music become entwined. I featured some of my favourite instruments: the cimbalom and the vibraphone, to add extra colour to the orchestra."
“For the recording, I approached John Harle to play the soprano saxophone solos that are partly notated and partly ad lib. I also invited jazz drummer Peter Erskine to play on the cues representing the enchanted beings. At the première dance performance at the Teatro Comunale, Bologna in 2000, I had found to my cost that it can be far from natural for an orchestral percussionist to play 'time' on a drum kit."
The work was not without challenges for a composer who had written over 200 songs before feeling the need to learn how to write anything down on a page of musical manuscript paper. Then again, as Costello says, “Being unschooled means that you don't know that you are not supposed to do certain things."
“I deliberately set aside modern methods involving computers, preferring a pencil and paper. The 200-page score was completed in approximately ten weeks, the latter 170 pages being written against the pressures of a deadline, directly into full score." “My orchestrations may not obey certain conventions but they sound just as I imagined them. I have learned simply by listening. I'm just using common sense and writing down what I want to hear. I don't come in and pretend to know more than I do."
When Deutsche Grammophon invited him to make a studio recording of Il Sogno, Costello was confronted with the task re-fashioning the score into a purely musical work without dancers, props or stage lighting.
The introduction of Michael Tilson Thomas into the equation gave Costello an important creative boost. As well as being a top-flight conductor, Tilson Thomas is a composer of some authority, and he's steeped in the technical disciplines of classical music in a way that the self-taught Costello could never be. He immediately began running a critical eye over the score.
“At our first meeting, Michael threw down a challenge that I should do everything I could to maintain the flow of every cue. During our subsequent sessions we examined the score bar by bar,"Costello recalls. “He would say 'what is happening in this passage? There's no activity there'. I'd say 'that's where the dancers do something very active against a background of still music', and he had to remind me, 'The dancers won't be there!'" “In the end, I tried to create a piece of music to which people would respond without the visual cues that came from the dancers. I took out a lot of repetitions demanded by the choreography, re-orchestrated some passages and composed several new transitions and resolutions."
Tilson Thomas was intrigued by Costello's music, and impressed by his creative energy. “Sometimes I nearly had to wrestle him to the mat and say 'are these four notes staccato or legato? How do you want this?'" says the conductor. “In the course of pop music history there have been albums that have used elements from classical music but most of them have used the lush, upholstered aspects of classical music, so you could fall back into them like a comfortable sofa. This recording couldn't be more different."
“It's important to every artist to demand a lot of his listeners but to try to bring those listeners along," says Tilson Thomas. “That's what Elvis is doing, he's pushing it a little further and it stretches people's ears to say 'oh yeah, I can accept that sound, I can go there'."
Costello is not making any grand claims. “There are elements of parody and humour in the piece, as well as passages representing confusion, jealousy, anger and turmoil. These cues have the edges, angles and the use of interesting rhythmic motifs that I go looking for in rock-and-roll but the way they are achieved is utterly different."
“I hope there are also moments of tenderness and lyricism, where the emotions of the lovers come through," he reflects. “I do think that orchestral music can be appealing to the ear without being mushy, conservative or safe. I believe it is also possible to provoke the imagination and the intellect without departing completely from recognizable forms or proposing an entirely unprecedented musical language just because something is a new composition. It's for the listener to decide what they get from it." 7/2004
Biographie of Elvis Costello
ELVIS COSTELLO has followed his musical curiosity in a career spanning more than 25 years. He is perhaps best known for his performances with The Attractions, The Imposters and for recent concert appearances with pianist, Steve Nieve. His recordings include This Year's Model, Imperial Bedroom, King of America, Blood and Chocolate, Spike, All This Useless Beauty and When I Was Cruel. However, he has also entered into acclaimed collaborations with Burt Bacharach, The Brodsky Quartet, Paul McCartney, Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, guitarist Bill Frisell, composer Roy Nathanson, The Charles Mingus Orchestra and record producer and songwriter T Bone Burnett.
Costello's songs have been recorded by a great number of artists. The list of performers reflects his interest in a wide range of musical styles: George Jones, Chet Baker, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Charles Brown, No Doubt, Solomon Burke, June Tabor, Howard Tate, the gospel vocal group The Fairfield Four and the viol consort Fretwork with the countertenor Michael Chance. In 2003 he began a songwriting partnership with his wife, the jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall, resulting in six songs included in her spring 2004 release, The Girl In The Other Room.
During his career Costello has received several prestigious honours, including two Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting, the Dutch Edison Awardfor The Juliet Letters with The Brodsky Quartet, the Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award, a BAFTA for the music written with Richard Harvey for Alan Bleasdale's television drama series G.B.H. and a Grammy for “I Still Have That Other Girl" from his 1998 collaboration with Burt Bacharach Painted From Memory.
Elvis Costello and The Attractions were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. During the same year he was awarded ASCAP's prestigious Founder's Award and nominated for threeGrammys for his album When I Was Cruel.
The late-2003 Deutsche Grammophon releaseNorth, an album of piano ballads composed, orchestrated and conducted by Costello, retained the number one position on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Chart for five weeks. In 2004 Costello was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song -“The Scarlet Tide" from the film Cold Mountain, written with T Bone Burnett.
2004 will see Costello presenting a series of concerts as part of the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City. The legendary Netherlands Metropole Orkest makes its North American début in an exclusive collaboration that will only be presented at the Lincoln Center and at this summer's North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague. Costello joins a long list of musical luminaries who have collaborated with the orchestra since it was founded, including Tony Bennett, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Mel Torme and Sarah Vaughan.
In addition to a short tour of Italy and Portugal in the spring with Steve Nieve, Costello has returned to the recording studio with his band The Imposters, which also features Nieve, bassist Davey Farragher and drummer Pete Thomas. An album of new Costello compositions will be released in the autumn of 2004 by the Nashville-based Lost Highway imprint.
The Lincoln Center Festival will also feature the North American première of Il Sogno, Costello's first full-length, orchestral work. The music was originally commissioned in 2000 by the Italian dance company Aterbaletto for their adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Following a première performance in Bologna with the Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale, the ballet was staged throughout Italy, Germany, France and Russia. Il Sogno was subsequently recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. The recording will be released in the autumn of 2004 by Deutsche Grammophon.
Personal Comment of Elvis Costello
Early in 2000, I received an invitation to attend a performance in Reggio Emilia of the Aterballeto production, “Paradiso” based on the writings of Dante. The intention was also to discuss my participation in their upcoming adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. In truth, I had little or no understanding of the world of dance. When asked by a very serious French publication, “Who is your favourite dancer?” I had replied honestly, “Cyd Charrise”.
However, I became fascinated by the grace and dynamism of a company as guided by their individual and imaginative choreographer, Mauro Bigonzetti. By the end of the evening, I had agreed to provide the musical score for “Il Sogno”.
I deliberately set aside modern methods involving computers, preferring a pencil and paper. The two hundred page score was completed in approximately ten weeks, the latter one hundred and seventy pages being written against the pressures of a deadline, directly into full score. Apart from the occasional advice of one of my composing or conducting colleagues, I worked without a collaborator. However, I must acknowledge all the patient and careful work of Allen Wilson, who prepared the printed material.
Rehearsals for the first performance were not completely without comic interludes; celesta players who disappeared without warning leaving dancers making unaccompanied entrances and a failure on the part of the composer to appreciate the difference between a jazz drummer and an orchestral percussionist being asked to play “time”.
Due to a breakdown of communication, I arrived to find a harpsichord in the orchestra but not a hammer dulcimer in sight. The orchestral management had assumed the request for a “cimbalom” was a misspelling of “cembalo”. Only days before the opening night, a Romanian traditional folk musician was located working in a restaurant in Rome. He didn’t read music but managed to memorise much of the intended part, although his presence in the orchestra pit almost triggered a rebellion in the viola section. I apologise for this addition to “viola player” folklore but it is the truth.
The premiere of the dance production took place at the Teatro Communale in Bologna on October 31st 2000.
It was also staged at a number of other Italian houses. Following an creation of a “production only” recording by the Orchestre de Teatro Communale, Aterballeto toured the work using taped accompaniment in theatre and studio venues throughout Germany, France, Russia and at a solitary performance at the Orange County Center for the Performing Arts.
Following the interest from Deutsche Grammophon in making a fully realised recording of the music, I began this adaptation to a concert work. I was very fortunate to be able to discuss the matter with Michael Tilson Thomas, who examined the score with me, bar by bar, asking many invaluable and challenging questions. Subsequently, I made a number of small additions and revisions to the piece.
The experience of hearing the music performed in Bologna lead me to approach the drummer, Peter Erskine to augment the orchestral percussion section for the recording. I also composed additional parts for the saxophonist, John Harle.
“Il Sogno” was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and these guest soloists, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, at Abbey Road Studios, London in April 2002.
SYNOPSIS by Elvis Costello
I have a reasonable good ear in music. Let's have the tongs and the bones.
(“A Midsummer Night's Dream", Act IV, scene 1)
Tr.1-3: Prelude - Overture - Puck 1 The music begins with sounds suggesting that we are not in any known realm. The “Sogno" motif is heard for the first time (0'46). “Puck 1" was originally written to allow the stage to be set for the entrance of the main characters; in the revised score, it introduces rhythmic figures that announce mischief and will return later in the piece. The cue (track) subsides into a reiteration of the “Sogno" motif played by celesta and harp. These tracks make up the three sections of an overture and retain titles relating to the original dance production. (Throughout this interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the choreography demanded that certain small liberties be taken with the play's original order.)
Tr. 4: The Court The preparations for Theseus's and Hippolyta's imminent wedding are announced by bass clarinet. Their procession is accompanied by orchestral gestures of mock grandeur. The cimbalom makes its first appearance as courtiers and attendants carry out their functions. The wedding music is heard for the first time (1'38). When the cimbalom and strings melody is repeated, but more ominously (1'52), the mood of a coming celebration gives way to uncertainty and a suggestion of the trouble ahead.
Tr. 5: The State of Affairs Fanfares announce the entrance of Egeus, “full of vexation", dragging his daughter, Hermia, rebellious in her refusal to marry Demetrius. Egeus hurls an accusation at Lysander.“With cunning hast thou filch'd my daughter's heart." The arguments begin. The authority of Theseus is sought and his voice is heard (1'13). Hermia is threatened with banishment to a convent or even death.
Upon that day either prepare to die
For disobedience to your father's will,
Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;
Or on Diana's altar to protest
For aye austerity and single life. (“A Midsummer Night's Dream", Act I, scene 1)
However, the love between Hermia and Lysander is expressed with a hint of the lovers' theme (1'35) that will develop throughout the piece. The arguments continue with Lysander's protestations (2'00) and with Hermia pleading her case (2'38). There is another moment of tenderness between the forbidden lovers (2'55), and then the tension is briefly relieved by a comic musical prediction of the enchantment to come (3'15). The sense of order and harmony is thrown into turmoil as Theseus delivers his ultimatum to Hermia. The scene concludes with a more forceful rendition of the “uncertainty music" from “The Court" (3'57).
Tr. 6: Hermia and Lysander The lovers are left alone to reflect on their predicament. “How now, my love! Why is your cheek so pale? How chance the roses there do fade so fast?" At first they react with awkwardness and uncertainty (0'15) but the love between them keeps tempting each to approach the other until they embrace (0'54). The expression of their love gradually becomes more passionate but it is constantly underpinned by the rhythm of events (1'49) that may overwhelm them and the fears and questions (2'35) contained in their decision to run away together. “O hell! To choose love by another's eyes."
Tr. 7: The Jealousy of Helena Helena has witnessed these events. Her unrequited love for Demetrius is expressed by the physical discomfort of her clumsy attempts to imitate Hermia. Her jealousy becomes furious anger (0'20) as she decides to reveal the lovers' plan to Demetrius.
Tr. 8: Workers' Playtime A group of artisans, Quince, Snug, Bottom, Flute and Starveling, enter, accompanied by a folk dance. They prepare to stage the play “Pyramus and Thisbe" as an entertainment for the wedding festivities. The assignment of roles is complicated by Bottom (0'32), who wants to play all of the parts. He repeatedly interrupts the attempts of his colleagues to portray each character (0'43) until his theme is heard to dominate (1'51).
Tr. 9: Oberon and Titania A sinister wind blows through the woods. The fairy realm is seen for the first time (0'28). “Ill met by moonlight." Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, begin to argue violently (1'28) about the human child they both want to possess, each throwing accusations of the other's infidelity.
Tr. 10: The Conspiracy of Oberon and Puck The quarrel increases in intensity until Oberon departs in anger and conspires with Puck to have revenge upon Titania, sending Puck to gather an elixir from a special flower that when sprinkled on the eyes, “will make a man or woman madly dote / Upon the next live creature that it sees." Demetrius enters the woods in search of the eloping couple. Despite threats and insults, Helena follows him. She is abject in her love.
The more you beat me, I will fawn on you:
Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you. (Act II, scene 1)
Oberon instructs Puck to also put the magic flower juice on the eyes of “the disdainful youth", Demetrius, so that he will fall in love with Helena. The “Sogno" motif is heard again (0'39). Tr. 11: Slumber Titania dances to a lullaby performed by her fairy attendants to induce slumber. Once she is asleep, Oberon enters (0'40) and squeezes the flower juice on her eyes (1'00).
Tr. 12: Puck 2 The brasher and more spiteful side of Puck is revealed as he expresses Oberon's anger at the loss of the little changeling who Titania has taken as her page.
The king doth keep his revels here to-night:
Take heed the queen come not within his sight;
For Oberon is passing fell and wrath,
Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling;
And jealous Oberon would have the child
Knight of his train, to trace the forests wild;
But she perforce withholds the loved boy,
Crowns him with flowers and makes him all her joy. (Act II, scene 1)
Tr. 13: The Identity Parade While attempting to flee from Athens, Lysander and Hermia become lost in the woods. They decide to sleep and although Lysander wants to lie beside his love, Hermia replies, “But, gentle friend, for love and courtesy / Lie further off; in human modesty." As they slumber (1'08), Puck enters to the accompaniment of motifs from “Puck 1" (1'23) and, mistaking them for Helena and Demetrius, sprinkles the enchanting liquid in the eyes of Lysander (1'49).
And here the maiden, sleeping sound,
On the dank and dirty ground.
Pretty soul! She durst not lie
Near this lack-love, this kill-courtesy.
Churl, upon thy eyes I throw
All the power this charm doth owe. (Act II, scene 2)
Helena and Demetrius enter running and still bickering. He finally exits, leaving her behind. She stumbles across the sleeping Lysander, who wakes and immediately falls uncontrollably in love with her (1'59). The confusions of attraction begin (2'22). Believing she is being mocked, “Wherefore was I to this keen mockery born? / When at your hands did I deserve this scorn?", Helena runs away and is pursued by Lysander. Hermia in turn is woken from a troubling dream and goes searching fearfully for her love (4'02). The track concludes with a reminder that this has all been Puck's handiwork (4'29).
Tr. 14: The Face of Bottom The “rude mechanicals" now enter the woods to continue their halting rehearsals for the play. Bottom's comical vanity and ludicrous theatrical notions continually delay their efforts. The invisible Puck has his sport in further disrupting the proceedings.
What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here,
So near the cradle of the fairy queen?
What, a play toward! I'll be an auditor;
An actor too, perhaps, if I see cause. (Act III, scene 1)
Puck transforms Bottom by giving him an ass's head (1'10) and all his companions flee. In the Aterballetto production, this was represented by a television descending from the ceiling to project the image of a donkey.
Tr. 15: The Spark of Love Bottom's first music is now transformed as he comes to terms with his changed nature. Titania wakes (1'15) and because of the enchantment of the flower liquid falls madly in love with Bottom the Ass. “Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful." Although he tries to escape, Titania's fairy attendants dote upon him and assist with an imprisonment of love (1'33).
Tr. 16: Tormentress In another part of the wood, Oberon and Puck observe Hermia quarrelling with Demetrius. She believes that he is responsible for Lysander's disappearance and returns his love with scorn: “O, why rebuke you him that loves you so? / Lay breath so bitter on your bitter foe." In anger, Hermia runs away, leaving Demetrius so exhausted that he falls into a deep sleep.
Tr. 17: Oberon Humbled Oberon realizes the mistake that has been made. He scolds Puck for the error sprinkling the liquid on Lysander's eyes (1'08): “What hast thou done? Thou hast mistaken quite and laid the love-juice on some true-love's sight." Oberon sends Puck to find Helena and sprinkles the love juice on Demetrius' sleeping eyes. In the Aterballetto production, Oberon's chastisement of Puck was interrupted by the odd and humbling sight of Titania being borne on the back of Bottom the Ass (1'54).
For she his hairy temples then had rounded
With a coronet of fresh and fragrant flowers;
And that same dew, which sometime on the buds
Was wont to swell like round and orient pearls,
Stood now within the pretty flowerets' eyes
Like tears that did their own disgrace bewail. (Act IV, scene 1)
Tr. 18: Twisted - Entangled -Transform and Exchange The confusion between the lovers is now complete. Puck declares, “Shall we their fond pageant see? / Lord, what fools these mortals be!" Helena and Lysander enter. He protests to her, “Why should you think I should woo in scorn?" Then Demetrius wakes up and also falls in love with Helena. She has previously been “fancy-sick" and “pale of cheer". Now as “two at once woo one", Helena is pursued by both men but believes that each is mocking her; “O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent / To set against me for your merriment." Hermia returns to the scene to be told emphatically by Lysander that he is now in love with Helena; “Why seek'st thou me? Could not this make thee know, / The hate I bear thee made me leave thee so?" Demetrius and Lysander prepare to fight a duel. The former friends and lovers find themselves in opposition and confusion, thanks to Puck's “negligence“ or “knaveries".
Tr. 19: The Fairy and the Ass Bottom and Titania act out a parody of married bliss as the wedding music is heard (0'33).
Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And stick musk-roses in thy sleek smooth head,
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy. (Act IV, scene 1)
Bottom has quickly become accustomed to the fairies attending to his every whim. Soon both Bottom and Titania are lulled to sleep (0'41). A transformed version of the “Oberon and Titania" music (1'03) announces that Oberon has lifted the spell on Titania, and when she awakes their love is renewed. Oberon orders Puck to release the four lovers from the spell.
Tr. 20: Sleep By disguising his voice, Puck lures each of the lovers into a woodland grove. He then lulls them into a sleep so that he can cancel the spell and allow their loves and loyalties to be restored. “Music, ho! Music, such as charmeth sleep!"
Tr. 21: Bottom Awakes Bottom is roused from his slumber and finds himself alone. He wonders if he has really been an ass.
I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream.
(Act IV, scene 1)
The short reprise of the“sweet bully" Bottom's first bombastic music summons him back to the company of his fellow artisans.
Tr. 22: Lovers Arise At sunrise, the lovers' music, which appeared in fragments during Act One, is heard in full. The four lovers are discovered by Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, their train and hounds (2'26). The huntsmen rouse the sleepers with their horns. They wake but are in a confused and half-dreaming state:
Methinks I see these things with parted eye,
When every thing seems double...
...Are you sure
That we are awake? It seems to me
That yet we sleep, we dream. (Act IV, scene 1)
Hermia and Lysander confess their plan to elope and their attraction is restored, while Demetrius relates:
And I in fury hither follow'd them,
Fair Helena in fancy following me. (Act IV, scene 1)
Now he finds himself transformed in his love for Helena. Upon hearing these declarations, Theseus gives his blessing to the lovers as the “Sogno" motif is heard again (2'43).
Tr. 23: The Play And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy. No more words: away! Go, away!
(Act IV, scene 2)
The artisans make an absurd success of their ridiculous production of “Pyramus and Thisbe", the performance attended by bantering commentary from all of the court. Nevertheless, they are all charmed, and the entertainment has lessons for all. The music is all “borrowed" from that of the court, beginning with the grandiose opening fanfare (0'14), first heard in “The State of Affairs" in Act One, and closing with a corruption of the “Sogno" motif (0'49).
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve: / Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time.
Tr. 24: The Wedding New delicate fanfares announce the intended couples as they enter the wedding celebrations. Theseus and Hippolyta are attended by a more joyous rendition of music that returns from “The State of Affairs" in Act One (0'14). New wedding music accompanies the two couples, Hermia and Lysander and Helena and Demetrius (0'35). Even when the “uncertainty theme" from Act One returns (1'17), it is heard as part of a dance that in turn resolves into the wedding music quotation from “The Court" (1'33), suggesting that order has been restored. The wedding festivities gather pace and involve the entire company (1'55), but the presence and influence of Puck is heard and felt as he briefly suspends the action (2'03) with another spell. The wedding music then becomes more and more frenzied (2'24) until it is interrupted once more by Puck with a return to the music of the very opening bars of the score, and the thought that this has all been a dream (2'55). The potential for more confusion and delusion is restated in a final emphatic statement of the “Sogno" motif (3'25).
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.