Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ronald Binge: Scottish Rhapsody

I recently happened to hear Ronald Binge’s fine evocation of Scotland. Not perhaps as Alec Salmond MSP would see it: more as the English Tourist Board under the auspices of Sir Walter Scott... The liner notes by the doyen of British Light Music, Ernest Tomlinson give the full story:-  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.
This is a musical Scotland that can happily sit alongside those works ‘furth o’ the border’ such as the Tam O’ Shanter Overture and the Scottish Dances by Malcolm Arnold, the Scottish Fantasy by Bruch, Moscheles Anticipations of Scotland and even Mendelssohn’s Hebridean Overture.
However, as a Scotsman myself, I can say that this is a fine musical picture of a great nation. I concede that Binge may be accused of creating a mythological and possibly stereotyped description of the Scottish landscape and people. However this ought to be no more a problem than Edward German’s Welsh Rhapsody is to the Welsh, Stanford’s Irish Rhapsodies are to the Irish or Greensleeves (as realised by RVW) is to the English.
The compositional history suggests that Ronald Binge raided his memory for appropriate Scottish tunes –and when he could not find one to suit he invented something which is more Scottish than the real thing!  Tunes that the listener will ‘ken’ include ‘Kelvin Grove’, ‘Fairy Dance Reel’ and ‘Where has my hi'lan' laddie gone?’ 
The work was originally written for Mantovani who included it in many concert pefromances in Europe and America.
There is a live performance of this work produced by students of the Barton College Department of Communication and Performing Arts. There is also a recording by Mantovani.
The full work is given its definitive performance on Marco Polo 8.223515 with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ernest Tomlinson. A shortened version is presented on the British Light Music Heritage 2-CD set on ASV CDWLZ245

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