WORKS: Wand of Youth Suite 1; Wand of Youth Suite 2; Songs from The Starlight Express; Dream Children
PERFORMER: Alison Hagley; Bryn TerfelWelsh National Opera Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: 433 214-2 DDD
In an astutely planned disc which brings together most of Elgar’s music about childhood, Mackerras demonstrates a perfect command of the flexibility of tempo and phrase the composer demands and an intimate understanding of his complex emotions.
Like all his lighter music, the Wand of Youth Suites can be both poignantly searching and charmingly entertaining. The unique orchestral sound somehow reflecting the play of light and shadow on an English landscape also focuses the ambivalent emotions of Elgar’s inner world — subtleties beautifully captured by Mackerras and his orchestra. If the analytical quality of the recorded sound reveals a certain edginess in the brass, it also allows the most sensitively hushed textures elsewhere, as in the poignant trio section of ‘Fairy Pipers’.
Years later Elgar produced incidental music for Algernon Blackwood’s The Starlight Express, and nine songs from the score, touchingly sung by Alison Hagley and Bryn Terfel, provide the disc’s highlight. The orchestral playing here is quite lovely, as it is also in that other exquisite childhood evocation, Dream Children, which Mackerras draws out with heartbreaking expression. Anthony Payne