Sunday, 10 January 2010

Ronald Binge: Miss Melanie

This year is the centenary of the birth of Ronald Binge. I am not sure that it will be marked by any special events either in the concert hall or with CD releases. Hopefully something will appear. Most commentators will concentrate on his three greatest hits - The Watermill, which was used in the BBC series The Secret Garden, Sailing By which was the close-down music for the BBC Home Service and finally his Elizabethan Serenade which was used for the same station’s shipping forecasts.

However I want to recall the delicate charms of Miss Melanie. This short piece was composed in 1956. Ernest Tomlinson in his sleeve notes for the Marco Polo retrospective of Binge’s music suggests that the lady in question is simply a figure of the composer’s imagination, yet with North Country wit he suggests that she must have been fun-loving lass. Moreover, he points out that her naughtiest trick is “to require the first fiddles to play the first four notes in a special way.” The first is note is bowed and the succeeding notes are played pizzicato. Certainly not a figure for the fainthearted or technically challenged!
Apart from this technical device there is little that is complex bout this work: its 2 ½ minutes being filled with a charming portrait of the girl’s activities
Miss Melanie is an excellent example of a piece of light music that is both entertaining and descriptive. Over and above this it is well constructed, and although formally simple, is satisfying.
The lady in question is probably quite young and her mischief is probably not too serious: perhaps being a little too coy, or is she being flirtations? And most certainly this is a picture of springtime in a tranquil village garden in deepest Sussex...

Miss Melanie is available on a number of recordings including the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ernest Tomlinson Marco Polo 8223515 and British Light Music classics Volume 3 New London Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp Hyperion CDA67148

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