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Len Mullenger:

Sailing By -- The Music of
Ronald BINGE
Various Artists and Orchestras
ASV British Light Music Heritage Series CD WLZ 245 2 CDs [136:38]


CD1 - Elizabethan Serenade; The Watermill; Saxophone Concerto; Miss Melanie; Man in a Hurry; Saturday Symphony.

CD2 - Sailing By; Give Me a Ring; I Like Your Smile; Perhaps I'm Young; A Star is Born; Morning Light; I Sent You Roses; Waiting for the Moonlight When You Are Young; Tango Corto; At the End of the Day; Under the Sun; Butterflies; Homeward; The Last of the Clan; Inamorata; Autumn Dream; The Look in Your Eyes; There's a Light in Your Eyes; Candles on the Table; What do you Know?; The Sound of Music is Everywhere; Fugal Fun; The Moon Looks Down; Farewell Waltz.

Ronald Binge was one of the many talents of 20th Century British Light Music. Born in Derby in 1910, his early studies in harmony and counterpoint were halted because he had to work as an organist accompanying silent films at a local cinema. In this capacity Binge began to learn basic orchestration. 1931 found him as pianist with an orchestra in Great Yarmouth but his big break came in 1935 when he was engaged by Mantovani to write arrangements for his newly-formed Tipica Orchestra. Binge's association with Mantovani lasted into the 1950s, when he created the famous 'cascading strings' effect which helped to sell millions of LPs world-wide.

Ronald Binge has composed and orchestrated for the West End Stage and for films as well as his many own compositions. His film credits include: Desperate Moment, The Runaway Bus, and Our Girl Friday.

CD1 includes probably his biggest hits: the lovely lilting Elizabethan Serenade; the vivid pastoral evocation that is The Watermill; the sophisticated and coquettish Miss Melanie with its unique string strumming; and the blasé jazzy scurrying of Man in a Hurry.

Ronald Binge himself conducts the South German Radio Orchestra in two of his more serious and extended works. The Saxophone Concerto (soloist Aage Voss) begins portentously before relaxing into a more playful and romantic mood. Its second movement has quieter, dreamy material and the finale returns to the exuberant - and a high-stepping march. There is much here to remind one of Eric Coates' Saxo-Rhapsody but, alas, without the supreme magic of that exquisite composition. Saturday Symphony is fun - a celebration of the day off. The first movement is playful, quirky and liberating. There is a brash jazzy influence and a few pieces of darker material floating about (a visit to the cinema?) The second movement reminds one of Shostakovich and Prokofiev and there is a Neapolitan flavour too in its colour and vivacity - a hint of Gershwin too. The complex Lento is soothing pastoral but with skittish rhythms twisting ripples over its predominantly calm surface. Breezes fluctuate and perhaps there is some romance turning to stormy passion -- and something nautical too à la Vaughan Williams? The last movement is another exercise in the cheeky and quirky, with brass bands honoured together with some sentimentality and mischief; but there is also some serious classical order and perhaps Saturday ends with a visit to the local Palais de Dance?

CD2 comprises 25 short items. I have to say that I cannot recommend this second disc. Much of the music is too dated and now sounds too blasé to take seriously. Many of the numbers have a tediously simple basic rhythmic beat that irritates. A number including, 'When You Are Young' 'Under the Sun' and 'Homeward' have an odd trotting rhythm and their orchestrations seem to suggest that they could have been used to score western films. The few numbers that had the cascading string effect left me cold and I could not even get very excited by the title number 'Sailing By' although it is a pleasant enough little piece with quite a charming tune. Walter Weller and his orchestra play most of the numbers in somnambulistic fashion and I wonder if these pieces are really more for dancing to than for listening. It was with considerable relief that I got to number 24 'Fugal Fun' played with vivacity and panache by Orchestra Raphaele conducted by Heinz Hotter.

Ian Lace

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