The Starlight Express
As his Dream Children and Wand of Youth Suites show, Elgar had a special affinity with the ideal of music for children. It reached its apogee in his music for The Starlight Express, an adaptation of an Algernon Blackwood story presented as a West End play for children in 1915. Originally, Elgar intended to recycle movements from The Wand of Youth, from which some portions are derived; but he was so charmed by the story, and by Blackwood, that he composed a great deal of original material instead. This two-disc set presents his music in two forms: in a narrative based both on Blackwood’s story and the play, read by Simon Callow; and as an extended suite (20 movements over 45 minutes) assembled by Andrew Davis.
While the lyrics tend to the arch or winsome, most of the music is vintage light Elgar, and beautifully performed. The songs, with their elaborate accompaniments, preludes and postludes, are the most important part of the score. They are sung with style by Roderick Williams and Elin Manahan Thomas. Davis has also orchestrated three songs composed by Clive Carey (1883-1968) for a prior production of the play that didn’t take place. Simpler in style than Elgar’s settings, they have a charm of their own. This is a very valuable addition to the Elgar discography.