What you're getting here takes a little explanation. The Starlight Express started life as a novel for young people by Algernon Blackwood, A Prisoner in Fairyland, a story of a group of children who collect stardust and carry on a secret existence apart from the adult world. It is not unlike Peter Pan in its general outlines, but from the evidence here it is not nearly as elegantly done. Blackwood's novel was made into a play by one Violet Pearn, and Elgar, in 1915, was asked to write incidental music and songs for this play, turning it into a kind of melodrama. Next, the play was reduced here to a narrative, read by actor Simon Callow and structured in such a way as to keep apparently all of Elgar's music, including some little songs. Finally, three songs and a long sequence of instrumental excerpts were collected into a pair of suites by the present conductor, Andrew Davis, leading the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and an assortment of British singers. These final suites are probably the most attractive items here for the average listener. Elgar's music is actually charming, with an airy, tonally simple, yet absolutely characteristic quality as far as could be from the weighty world of his symphonies and oratorios. You could even imagine other performances of these suites as an ideal opener for concerts of English music. The narrated play itself doesn't quite come off, and the original material seems uncertain at times as to whether it wants to be for children or adults. Nevertheless, recordings of this material in any form are rare, and to hear this music from one of Elgar's foremost champions will likely appeal to the composer's fans.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
|The Starlight Express, Op. 78, Incidental Music|
Act 1. No. 1. Song (Organ-grinder) To the Children. Allegro non troppo - Moderato - Tempo 1 - Più mosso - Moderato - Tempo 1 - Allegretto - Tempo 1 - Allegretto - Moderato
Act 2. Scene 1. No. 18. Song (Organ-grinder) The sun has gone. Allegretto - Lento - Allegro - Allargando