Through the years, Elvis Costello has dipped his toe into many genres, including classically inclined recordings with the Brodsky Quartet and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter.

Through the years, Elvis Costello has dipped his toe into many genres, including classically inclined recordings with the Brodsky Quartet and mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter. Now, with "Il Sogno," a musical reimagining of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Costello makes his debut as an orchestral composer. To his credit, he has a sophisticated grasp of orchestration, and he makes good use of orchestral color. (Michael Tilson Thomas has always been a conductor of extraordinary voluptuousness, and this recording is no exception.) Costello seems to have a thousand melodic ideas that evoke forerunners from Copland, Stravinsky and Bernstein to golden-age big bands and even George Benson. Rather than pick and choose among those ideas, however, he stuffs them all into one 62-minute piece, thereby ensuring that melodies only appear for a few seconds before vanishing. The overall effect tends to be oddly stilted and unengaging. This recording will probably appeal most to Costello's biggest fans.—AT