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ClassicsOnline Home » BINGE: Watermill (The) / Scottish Rhapsody
Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
One of the most highly respected and successful English
composers of his generation, Ronald Binge was born in Derby on 15th July 1910, the eldest of three children. His father was no mean pianist, but any
influence he might have had on young Ronnie came to an abrupt halt when he left
home to join the army in 1914. He served throughout the Great War and did not
return home until 1919. As a result of his wounds he died in 1920. This left
the Binge family in poor financial circumstances, and though mother went out to
work there was no spare money for music lessons for the children.
Fortunately for Ronnie, relatives and friends rallied round,
his maternal grandmother helped financially, and at the age of seven he became
a chorister in St. Andrew's Church, Derby. Ronnie (everyone knew him as Ronnie,
itself a sign of his endearing ability to be a friend to all) paid generous
tribute to the organist and choirmaster of that church, William James Baker,
from whom he took his first piano lessons and who gave him so much more than
technique, his first insight into the art of music.
Setting his heart on a musical career, Ronald Binge's
development followed a promising pattern: another teacher for organ and another
for harmony and counterpoint. But no funds were available for completing his
studies at a music college. Being the eldest, it was up to him to find a job to
help his hard-working mother raise her growing family, so at the age of
seventeen he obtained employment as organist in a local cinema.
Those were the days of silent films. The image usually
presented of those days is of the ubiquitous pianist improvising away to
capture the mood of the images on screen. In reality it was normal for cinemas
to offer live orchestral incidental music. Even a small-town cinema would have
a little orchestra, using organ or harmonium to fill in for any missing
instruments. The library of such an orchestra would cover everything from
symphony movements to fox-trots; selections from operas were fertile ground for
snippets of this and that. In addition, special music of the "Dramatic Agitato",
"Heartbreak Melody" type was published in great quantities.
The practicalities of jumping from one piece of sheet music
to another the moment the mood changed called for the greatest ingenuity and
sleight-of-hand on the part of the players. Sight-reading was developed to a
high degree. After that kind of learning-process, challenges of film sessions
and recording and broadcasting must have held few fears for Ronald Binge in his
For an aspiring composer, having a real orchestra to write
for, small though it was, offered a great incentive, and from this time came
Ronnie's fascination with orchestration. His instrumental colleagues were not
slow to come forward with frank criticism, bringing home to him the need to
have detailed knowledge of every instrument, and, a particular interest of
Ronnie's, the different techniques and styles of individual players.
The arrival of talking pictures made orchestras redundant.
Only the organist survived, and Ronnie was left alone to play in the intervals.
He was also much in demand playing for various local functions in restaurants,
at dances and as a pianist and accompanist at concerts of all kinds.
In 1931 Ronald Binge moved farther a field, his first job
being as pianist in the orchestra at the East coast resort of Great Yarmouth,
under the baton of John Russell. This was a time when light orchestras were an
essential attraction of all seaside resorts. Such orchestras were of the
highest calibre, attracting musicians from London and other centres, where
concerts in summer months were few and far between. Players were expected to be
versatile. Flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon would double on saxophones, so
they were equally at home playing for concerts during the day and for dancing
during the evening. Ronnie learned that he was expected to double too, and he
took up the piano accordion, an instrument just beginning to grow in popularity
as the advantages of having a 'normal' keyboard for the right hand melodies,
rather than buttons, were quickly recognised.
As an experienced organist, he was soon able to do splendid
things with his right hand, despite the narrower keys, but he had difficulties
with the buttons for the left hand, some for bass notes, some for chords.
Still, anyone with the right kind of adaptability can make things work and
Ronnie managed pretty well after a few week's practice. Then disaster struck.
Ronnie awoke one day to learn that the pier had burned down. The concert hall
and all the orchestral instruments in it had simply gone up in smoke. Only the
two trumpet players had insured their instruments, and Ronnie hadn't even paid
The people of Great Yarmouth came to the rescue of the orchestra,
lending the players instruments of all kinds so they could continue their work
in another hall - but no piano-accordion. In due course Ronnie obtained another
one, but it took him a long time to pay for it as he was still having to pay
for his first instrument too. At the end of this season he was encouraged by
the conductor and members of the orchestra to try his luck in London. It took
time and a great deal of persistence on his part to find work, enough,
eventually, for him to earn a reasonable living.
Ronald Binge was in fact a very fine player of the
piano-accordion, an instrument much prone to maltreatment at the hands of less
than adequate performers. In the hands of a true musician it is an attractive
and versatile solo instrument. In his twenties Ronnie won several awards for
his prowess on that instrument. The accordion is also extremely useful in very
small orchestras, able to take over the rôle previously allotted to harmonium
or organ, covering for missing solo instruments, providing handfuls of chords
to simulate the absent brass and so on. On accordion or piano he had a wide and
varied experience playing with orchestral combinations of many kinds. He always
took every opportunity that offered for orchestrating and composing.
It was in 1935 that Ronald Binge's association with Mantovani
began. Mantovani, of Italian birth, started his professional career as a
violinist, playing the Bruch First Violin Concerto at the age of
sixteen. By the 1930s his interest in light music found him playing in the
theatre pit and elsewhere, and soon conducting. Mantovani's Tipica Orchestra
was formed and from 1935 Ronald Binge did all the arrangements. He also
composed a good deal of music in this period, some of which was recorded and
broadcast, and eventually wrote his first film score. This was a picture called
Thirteen Men and a Gun, originally made in Austria, with English
dialogue dubbed in afterwards.
On September 1st, 1939, Binge was working with Mantovani on
a television production at Alexandra Palace, London. They had finished
rehearsal and were about to start the transmission when the fateful news came
through: Hitler had invaded Poland. War was now inevitable and all television
ceased from that moment until the war was over.
In 1940, at the age of thirty, Ronald Binge joined the Royal
Air Force, and was soon posted to Blackpool, the Lancashire seaside resort.
There were always enough personnel to provide the players for a fine orchestra.
The conductor was Sidney Torch, at that time best known to the general public
by his brilliant recordings on the cinema organ, but destined to become one of
the great light-music composer-conductors. A lifelong friendship began and
Aircraftsman Binge was asked to take charge of the station choir, also formed
from recruits, which included airwomen as well as men, and he directed this for
the next two years, with fortnightly joint concerts with Sidney Torch's
orchestra. Around this time he wrote a piece called Spitfire, after the
famous fighter plane of that name.
At Blackpool, with much spare time at his disposal, he
studied German, having come across some music books in that language. He had
the good fortune to meet up with an Austrian refugee called Maryan Friedman,
who became his first teacher. In the end Ronnie found the life not quite what
he wanted, and eventually became an instructor of aircrew at Boulmer, then Eshott,
In any RAF camp regular entertainments were put on, and a
man of Sergeant Binge's abilities was much in demand, but there was still not
enough to occupy his mind, and no opportunity of working with an orchestra, his
first love. He therefore continued his study of German as and when he could.
Fluency in German was to prove most valuable in his future career. Quite apart
from the conducting invitations he would eventually receive from Germany
itself, British publishers from 1950 onwards made many recordings in Germany
which the composers were often invited to conduct.
In 1944 he decided to try for a Royal Society of Arts
examination in German which was to be held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Arriving in
the examination room Ronnie was struck by two facts. One was that he was the
only candidate, and the other that the invigilator for that examination was an
attractive young brunette. What neither of them knew - and the careless head of
faculty had overlooked - was that a strict rule of the society insisted that
when there was only one candidate for an examination the invigilator must be of
the same sex. "You see why!" said Vera Binge with a chuckle fifty
years later. Ronnie fell in love with the invigilator and they were married a
year later. Incidentally, he also passed the examination. This partnership was
outstandingly successful and they worked together as a great team, Vera running
the business affairs, leaving Ronnie to devote himself to music.
The war over, and on the first-in first-out principle
Sergeant Binge was demobilised in 1945. Music publishers were looking to the
future with renewed confidence and there was plenty of work around for skilled orchestrators.
At that time a major part of a publisher's promotion process was providing
special arrangements for the numerous broadcasting orchestras and combinations
there were, of all shapes and sizes, each of which aimed to offer their own
'style' and 'sound'. How well publishers produced distinctive arrangements for
such broadcasters was a key factor in their marketing success. There were piano
pieces to be orchestrated - John Ireland was one who expressed his appreciation
of Binge's work, as did Noel Coward when Binge scored Pacific 1860, a
musical starring Mary Martin, staged at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in
December 1946. This was at the behest of Mantovani, who played in the orchestra
pit, and with whom Binge had renewed his association after the war. It was from
this time that some of his most successful pieces were published and broadcast.
In 1951 he had the honour to be elected a member of the Royal Philharmonic
Society, whose membership is strictly limited to 150 musicians.
In 1951 Henry Sarton of Decca Recording Company gave Ronald
Binge a free hand to write for a Mantovani session, Mantovani himself being on
tour with the Victoria Palace Crazy Gang Show. Binge devised quite a new
orchestral set-up using only a few wind instruments, but a large string
section. With this he created the 'cascading strings' effect soon to become
world-famous as the Mantovani sound.
The germ of this idea came from an unlikely source. Ronald
Binge loved classical music and was much attracted to the music of Monteverdi.
He was intrigued by the rich intermingling of sounds that occur naturally when
music is performed in a great cathedral such as St. Mark's, Venice. Composers
of sacred music took the long reverberation, inevitable in such vast auditoria,
into account in the way they wrote. Binge had for some time mused over the
possibilities of doing something of the same in popular music. Not that
cathedral-like reverberation wasn't already part of the recording scene, in the
use by studios of various electrophonic devices usually called echo-chambers.
The trouble is, reverberation-chambers are indiscriminate in their effect. Overapplied
and the magic soon palls; and what enhances melody can spell death to rhythm
and harmonic clarity. Ronnie decided to dispense with artificial devices and
simulate the reverberation effect within the orchestra itself. This could then
be used selectively when and where it would be at its most effective.
Reverberation is simulated by dividing the violins into several parts each
allotted a different melody-note in turn, which they sustain and let die away,
until called upon to move elsewhere. Using studio ambience normal for his basic
lush scoring for the orchestra as a whole, he used his simulated reverberation
to highlight those sections of melody where it would be most effective.
The song which best showed off this effect was of course Charmaine.
The 'clash' of notes being sustained against each other as they walk down
the scale brings only enchantment when the harmony and rhythm that propels it
is clearly defined. The new sound was an immediate success.
Binge always hoped people would forget about his Mantovani
success. This was a technical job he had been asked to do and for which he had
been well paid; it was not in the same league as his composing achievements.
Nevertheless to create musical success solely by the manipulation of
sound is a rare achievement in any era. And it's worth noting that in the two
radio series that followed, called 'Sunday Rhapsody', Mantovani broadcast
several Binge compositions. One of these, Andante cantabile, was
destined to become perhaps the most successful piece of British orchestral
music written in the new Elizabethan age.
The contribution publishers make to a composer's career is
often overlooked. Walter Eastman, head of the London firm of Ascherberg,
Hopwood and Crew, gave Ronnie much arranging work when he returned to the
profession after the war, and was a source of much encouragement to him in his
most crucial years as a composer, publishing many of his pieces from 1947
onwards. But - not untypically for a publisher! - he wanted something more, and
it was to try and please Walter Eastman that Ronnie wrote his Andante
cantabile. Having listened to that first broadcast Walter Eastman
telephoned Ronnie: "That's what I call a tune! I think we've got something
here. Damned if I know what you're going to call it; sounds like some sort of
The longer a hit takes to arrive the more long-lasting it is
likely to be. Following publication under its new title Elizabethan Serenade
this piece was avidly welcomed by the many broadcasting light orchestras of
the time. It was chosen as the signature-tune for the BBC's Sunday morning
series Music Tapestry, a regular favourite in the 19505. The Mantovani
recording made in 1951 was used daily as late-night play-out of BFN - the
British Forces Network radio station in Germany. Once rolling, the progress of Elizabethan
Serenade was unstoppable. It has been rearranged for every conceivable
combination. It was in the British charts twice - at different times. It won an
Ivor Novello Award in 1957. Its song version Where the gentle Avon flows, with
words by Christopher Hassall, was published in several forms.
After those two 1951 radio series, Ronald Binge decided to
end his association with Mantovani. Ronnie was by now composing music for many
films, including Desperate Moment (Mai Zetlerling and Dirk Bogarde), The
Runaway Bus (Frankie Howerd), Dance Little Lady (Mai Zetlerling and
Mandy Miller) and Our Girl Friday (Kenneth More and Joan
Collins). He also w rote the music for more than fifty films for American
There was also much incentive to help cater for radio's
insatiable appetite at that time for new light music of all kinds. Until the
1960s radio was as potent a force on the general public as television was to
become later. In the 1950s the BBC had eight light orchestras on staff, each
with several programmes a week, and employed many other orchestras and
combinations of every conceivable kind as well. Opportunities for composers
were such as present-day composers can only marvel at. He was successful in
other fields too. In his Concert Carillon of 1954 he used a similar
'cascade' effect with solo cornets as he had with violins in the 'Mantovani
sound'. The piece was an instant hit in the brass band world and has become a
One day Ronnie's wife saw a reference in a book to a musical
palindrome and asked what it was. Pieces of music cleverly fashioned so as to
be the same whether played forwards or backwards have been a fascination for
composers since the earliest days of music. The act of explaining what a
palindrome was inspired Ronnie to write a Toccata for piano to
demonstrate, but he went one better than any of his forbears in that his Vice
Versa is the same piece whichever way up you look at it. In fact there is
no right way up since the second half simply prints the first half (title page
included) the other way up. Piano music has two staves, treble clef for the
right hand, bass clef for the left. What the right hand plays from the
beginning to the middle of the piece has to be played by the left hand when you
start from the other end, those same notes now being read the other way up, and
in the 'wrong' clef.
When his son Christopher was learning to play the recorder
Ronnie composed another musical palindrome called Upside / Downside, Downside
being the name of the school his son attended in Purley, Surrey. It is written
for violin, recorder and cello and again there is no right way up to the score,
with the title pages at both ends, one upside, one downside, and the music
itself equally reversible. With the individual parts, two players can play from
the same piece of music even if they are looking at it from opposite ends!
Surprisingly - being invited to conduct one's own work is an
occupational hazard for any composer. Binge took to conducting rather late in
his career. It came with a late night BBC radio series began in 1952, called String
Song. Ronnie was surprised to find how much he enjoyed conducting after all
those 'back-room boy' years. Increasingly, he was invited to conduct his own
music throughout Europe. He continued to compose, later compositions including Saturday
Symphony (1966-68), Te Deum (1970) and, for a change late in life,
two albums for solo guitar. His love of light-orchestral music continued to
find outlets in what is now called 'library music'. This is a flourishing genre
of music little known outside the profession, being recordings made by music
publishers for promotion in broadcasting, films and by other means and not
primarily for sale to the public. One such recording was called Sailing By, which
quickly became successful, and bids fair to rival the popularity of Elizabethan
Serenade. Binge gave much of his time to the well-being of his fellow
composers, serving for several years on the council of the Songwriters' Guild
and then that of the Performing Right Society, always particularly forthright
in the cause of British Light Music. He died on the 6th of September 1979 at
his home at Ringwood in Hampshire.
No-one more exemplified the successful light music composer
of his generation than Ronald Binge; immensely versatile, giving fully and
completely, whether it be responding to the demands of the moment or writing
what the muse within him had to express, with a wealth of invention and a
mastery of technique. He was esteemed both for his music and for the unassuming
lovable person that he was.
 Elizabethan Serenade
First performed by Mantovani in 1951, Elizabethan
Serenade has became one of the most popular light-orchestral compositions
of all time. It is so familiar it is easy to overlook just how original a piece
of music it is. First, the accompaniment pattern is unlike anything heard
before, in its gentle 'strumming' rhythm on lower strings, with, uniquely, the
bass line tied rigidly to that same rhythm. Secondly, there are two completely
contrasting melodies to savour, which alternate with each other throughout the
piece. Melody one is a dancing passage for two flutes and a clarinet, which
begins the piece, inviting us to listen out for the serenade melody to come,
then offers contrasting interludes between the various presentations of that
serenade theme as it develops and unfolds, and gives us a signing-off episode
at the end. What is special about the 'dancing' tune, quite apart from its
melodic charm, is that rhythmically its repeated notes slot perfectly into the
gaps left in the accompaniment rhythms below. It is not an effect a listener
registers consciously, but it is what gives the serenade its unique kind of
momentum. The work is beautifully shaped, encouraging the serenade theme to
find out more about itself as it proceeds. As the climax approaches, with quiet
brass helping the slow crescendo, the interplay between the two melodies
shortens, as if each is becoming more interested in what the other has to say,
before we return to the theme as originally heard. The dancing melody returns until
at last tiny breaks in the 'strumming' rhythm point the ending to us.
 Scottish Rhapsody
The mist enshrouded lochs, the calm of the glens, the skirl
of the pipes and the swirl of the kilt as the highland fling dances on its with
merry way. Binge culled from his extensive memory as many Scottish tunes as
suited his need, -Kelvin Grove, Fairy Dance Reel and Where has my hi'lan'
laddie gone? spring to one's notice - if necessary reshaping them to suit
the flow of his design. If an existing tune did not quite fill the bill, Ronnie
found, once steeped in the Scottish idiom, that it came naturally to him to
compose new tunes in unmistakeably the same style. It is interesting to note
that Scottish Rhapsody was originally written for Mantovani, who performed
it with great success when his orchestra toured Europe and America,
particularly in regions with a large Scottish element among the population.
 Miss Melanie
We are assured that Melanie is a girl who dwelt only in
Binge's imagination, but what a delightful picture he paints of this fun-loving
lass. Her naughtiest trick is to require the first fiddles to play the quirky
first four notes of her tune in a special way. After playing the first note
with the bow, the three spare fingers of the player's right hand have to jump
instantly to the string to pluck the next three notes. Two years after it first
appeared Miss Melanie was chosen as the theme tune of the Joan and
Leslie Show on television because, as star of the show Leslie
Randall said, "It indicated that same pretty crazy people were about to
 Las Castañuelas
Unusual for a composer of light-orchestral music Ronald
Binge did not write any suites, so here we bring together three of his
Latin-orientated pieces. He was very fond of Spanish music, and Las Castañuelas,
(in English, The Castanets) presents an exciting picture of a
Spanish Festival and the uninhibited nature of its milling crowds.
 Madrugado (Daybreak)
A steady bolero rhythm sets the scene, with the clarinet
melody evoking the calm of early morning. The music slowly builds as the rhythm
continues on its unremitting way and the melody is taken up by larger and
larger forces. The sun slowly rises from behind the mountain-top, spreading its
light till the crescendo brings us to the glory of the full day.
On holiday in Spain in 1953 the Binges, including
six-year-old daughter Margaret, found themselves listening to Madrugado every
day, it being used to introduce a mid-day news bulletin on radio. "Oh
yes," said the receptionist when Ronnie enquired about it, "It's an
old Spanish melody." He took some convincing that it was written by Ronnie
 The Red Sombrero
That characteristic broad-brimmed hat, the sombrero,
conjures up images of lazy hours whiled away under the Mexican sun, but if it
is a red sombrero we are whisked away into an exhilarating dance. Indeed, there
is more than a hint of Brazil in this music carried along by Samba and Conga
 Trade Winds
In the days of sail, to catch the trade winds, which blew
inexorably across the oceans of the world, eastward to the north of the
equator, westwards to the south of it, with the dreaded doldrums somewhere in
between, was vital to the well-being of international commerce. In this piece,
we stay with the tall ship while it responds to wayward winds, sometimes
surging onwards, at other times becoming more calm, but the winds always
returning to keep the vessel moving ever onwards into the horizon.
 Faire Frou-Frou
To Paris now, and the dancers of the Folies Bergère, who
inspired Binge to write this sparkling piece in the style of a Can-Can.
 String Song
String Song was the name of the BBC radio series
designed for late-night listening that began in 1955, arranged and conducted by
Ronald Binge. A large string orchestra was used, with the BBC Choir and Max Jaffa
featured on solo violin. The distinctive new sound that Ronnie fashioned came
from the way the strings were laid out and voiced. They were seated as a double
orchestra, one in the foreground to concentrate on melody, the other offering
an across-the-spectrum spread of solo strings away in the distance to provide
the background harmonies.
When the signature tune of String Song was published,
large string sections being rare in light music, Ronnie offered the option of
this background 'choir' being provided by wind instruments instead of strings.
That is the version chosen for this recording, enabling all 45 of the
orchestra's violins, violas and cellos to devote themselves to play the melody
alone, initially in a rich unison, then, as the music swells to a climax, in
octaves, with a sudden fall to a unison again as the song comes to an end.
Concerto for Saxophone
 Allegro spiritoso
 Andante espressivo
 Rondo: Allegro giocoso
The BBC launched its annual International Festival of Light
Music in 1951. Each festival has consisted of five or six weekly concerts on
Saturday evenings in June and July at the Royal Festival Hall, London. The
festival has been truly international, with guest soloists, conductors,
orchestras, choirs, bands and ensembles from round the world performing
alongside the resident BBC Concert Orchestra.
Beginning with Eric Coates and Haydn Wood the BBC carried
out an enterprising policy of commissioning British composers to write works
for these concerts, which were broadcast live to a large European audience.
Binge's first commission in that series was Thames Rhapsody. When
offered a second commission, for the 1956 festival, he chose to write this Concerto
for Saxophone. The soloist was Michael Krein, a leading figure on the light
music scene, both for his famous Michael Krein Saxophone Quartet, and as
conductor of the London Light Concert Orchestra. The first performance took
place in June 1956, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, the composer conducting.
The concerto adopts the standard three-movement format. The
first contrasts the spirited theme which opens the movement with the more
lyrical one that soon follows. It shows the power and versatility of the modern
saxophone, well able to hold its own in symphonic discourse with the orchestra.
The slow movement again shows Ronnie's mastery of form, able to build on a
single theme, presented first by saxophone, then taken up by the orchestra and
developed by each to reach a memorable climax and a slow fall to an ending that
gradually dies to nothing. The poignant question mark that hovers over the end
of the slow movement is quickly answered by scurrying strings, with running
unison figures over which the saxophone soon announces a happy melody in the
style of a jig, with full orchestra soon entering into the spirit of things. In
the middle section the momentum is interrupted as the wood-wind respond to
jocular messages from the saxophone by asking it to slow down, an example of
orchestral by-play which has Ronnie Binge written all over it. Brass and
Strings show their impatience by taking over the saxophone tune, but the
wood-wind are still set on holding things up. A return to the movement's
opening figurations on strings puts an end to all that, and the first section
is repeated. After a final run-up from the saxophone, the orchestra ends the
work with a flourish.
 The Watermill
The Watermill is Binge in gentle pastoral mood, a
piece written for oboe solo, strings and harp. Note the characteristic Binge
device of setting the scene with orchestral figurations. In this case the
surging scalic passages of cellos and basses evoke the steady trundling of the
mill-wheel, a motif used as introduction and returned to as each oboe phrase
ends, allowing the soloist a moment or two to relax before returning to his
lovely melody. One of Ronnie's best-loved pieces, The Watermill was used
as signature-tune for the BBC television programme 'The Secret Garden'.
 Scherzo: Allegro molto
Few composers, 'serious' or 'light', have resisted the
challenge sometime in their career of writing music in the style of an earlier
age. In 1951 Binge wrote his Scherzo in classical, that is early 1800s,
style. It follows the traditional scherzo pattern, a typical interplay of
lively themes to begin and end with, and a smoother trio section in the middle.
 The Dance of the Snowflakes
The Dance of the Snowflakes is a striking example of
the use of sound to paint a picture. The 'cascade' effect first used in the Mantovani
sound is modified in a quite novel way. Binge writes a tune with six notes to a
bar, then divides the violins into six so that each part can take up a note in
turn. This they play with a trill, which they keep going until called upon to
start a new note in their allotted place in the next bar, and so on. It is a
bit like bell-ringers having to come in at exactly the right moment to keep a
peal in a regular flow - except that when their turn comes round it will not
sound the same note as it did last time. At the same time the harp picks out
the melody notes to keep the violins in order. In time the snow settles and in
the middle section we gaze in wonder at the all-white panorama before us, but
not for long, as the snow returns once more to its glittering dance.
 High Stepper
High Stepper, a jaunty, roguish piece, was built from
music Ronald Binge wrote for an Independent Television programme called The
Adventures of Aggie, which was about a young girl who gets herself into all
kinds of problems. There were several series of films, and later the title of
the series was changed to Born to Trouble.
 Prelude: The Whispering Valley
Prelude is perhaps an inadequate term for what in
effect is a miniature rhapsody for solo piano and string orchestra. Solo cello
also is involved, helping us return to the main narrative towards the end,
after the short piano cadenza is over. The Whispering Valley is a
piece which seems full of meaning, yet one can never quite find what the
evocative title describes - a valley in the remote countryside, an air of
mystery, of clandestine romance? The elusive language of music conveys
something deeper than can be expressed in words.
 Venetian Carnival
The Venetian popular song O mamma, mamma cara has
been promoted under the title Carnival of Venice ever since Paganini
wrote a set of variations on it for solo violin in 1829, his Opus 10. Many
other composers followed and it has been particularly associated with the
cornet and the brass band world since a certain M. Arban (in 1869 the first
professor of cornet at the Paris Conservatoire) wrote a celebrated set of
variations on it to give his students something virtuosic to play for their
final examination. Binge, having astutely changed the title round to avoid
confusion with all other versions, begins his set by quietly reminding us of
the tune, then swirls us away to festivity, each representation of the tune
offering a sound-picture of the different facets of a carnival. At the end we
hear a reminder of the theme that has intrigued composers over nearly two
centuries, then swell to a conclusion.
 Sailing By
About the most difficult thing to compose is a tune which is
both simple and memorable. Easy-to-listen-to easy-to-forget tunes abound, but Sailing
By has that extra quality that makes it stay in the memory. To be
technical, Sailing By is a tune whose every note is taken from the notes
of the chords that propel it. The genius though, having set the simplest of
accompaniments to lilt the tune along, is to enrich the melody by way of
felicitous orchestration: the rise and fall of the flute figurations which
introduce the piece and feature throughout as fill-ins at the ends of phrases;
the undulating clarinets which become more busy and join in the flutes'
ornamentations as the climax is reached. All that, with a persuasive title,
made this piece an ideal choice for a BBC Television documentary on an
International Balloon Race. This was a programme without dialogue and the
interest engendered by the music made it an overnight success. For several
years countless numbers of listeners have unwound from the stress of the day to
the relaxing strains of this melody, as the final item before close-down of the
BBC Radio 4 programmes of the day. Thus, just as Elizabethan Serenade was
the automatic choice to open the Ronald Binge CD, there could be no more
appropriate way to round it off.
© 1994 Ernest Tomlinson
Last Albums Viewed
BINGE: Watermill (The) / Scottish Rhapsody