I was glad to hear Ronald Binge’s Sailing By on Classic FM the other day. Looking at the radio website it is one of three popular pieces that regularly feature in their broadcast schedules. The other two are the Elizabethan Serenade and The Watermill. I am not sure if any of these pieces featured in the Hall of Fame 2013 listings as there is no searchable list.
The Watermill, which was composed in 1958, is well-known to television viewers of a certain generation as the theme tune to The Secret Garden which was screened in 1975. This is not impressionistic music as such, but more of an 'impression'. It is closer to musical realism. The opening cello and bass motive ‘evoke the steady trundling of the mill wheel.’ Against this is a lovely rocking string theme. After a few bars the oboe states an evocative and wistful melody, or is it a commentary. Formally the music is almost monothematic – with the interest being supplied by gentle variations of the accompaniment and theme. Certainly this is a lovely pastoral piece that makes an accomplished use of the solo oboe and strings. Included in the score is a harp which lends weight to the cascading effects of the water. It is music to soothe even the most troubled mood.
The work is currently available on at least a dozen recordings. The Guild Light Music series has a version by the Lansdowne Light Orchestra (Probably Stuttgart Radio Orchestra / Kurt Rehfeld) on GLCD5183 however, one of the best recordings is on the Hyperion label, CDA66868 with the New London Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp. Marco Polo (8.223515) issued a retrospective of Binge’s music in 1992. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra plays under Ernest Tomlinson. The Watermill is also features on YouTube in a version for oboe and piano. The soloist is Jeremy Polmear.