Richard Rodney Bennett

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Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, CBE (29 March 1936 – 24 December 2012)[1] was an English composer who was famous for his film music and his jazz performance as well as for music for the concert hall. He lived in New York City from 1979 until his death in 2012.

Life[change | change source]

Richard Rodney Bennett was born at Broadstairs, Kent. He was very gifted as a child and had some private lessons with the composer Elisabeth Lutyens when he was 10.[2] He studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Howard Ferguson, Lennox Berkeley and Cornelius Cardew. During this time, he went several times to Darmstadt where some of the most famous modern composers of the time met every summer to discuss ideas, particularly serialism.

Bennett taught at the Royal Academy of Music between 1963 and 1965, at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, United States from 1970 to 1971, and was later International Chair of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music between 1994 and the year 2000.

Bennett wrote over two hundred works for the concert hall, and fifty scores for film and television. He also wrote and performed jazz songs. In the 1950s he studied in Paris with Pierre Boulez who encouraged him to write serial music, but later his music became more tonal and easier to listen to. He wrote jazz music, film music and concert music for the BBC Proms and the Three Choirs Festival. In 1976 he wrote Zodiac for the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington to celebrate the bicentenary of the United States of America. He dedicated the work to Elisabeth Lutyens. He started to give up serialism and combined various musical techniques to create his own personal style. In 1979 he moved to the United States.

A work called Noctuary (1980) combines the musical style of Scott Joplin with ideas from Schumann and Debussy. At the 1979 Edinburgh Festival he performed both with the horn player Barry Tuckwell who played his Horn Sonata as well as in late-night cabaret. His Reflections on a Scottish Folk Song was a tribute to the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. His music was extremely well written and some of the greatest musicians performed his music e.g. Barry Tuckwell, Julian Bream, Evelyn Glennie and James Galway and the singers Jane Manning, Robert Tear and Philip Langridge. In 2011 his suite of film music for Murder on the Orient Express was performed at the BBC Proms.

Richard Rodney Bennett died in New York on 24 December 2012.

Film and television scores[change | change source]

He wrote music for films and television; among his scores were the Doctor Who story The Aztecs (1964) for television, and the feature film Billion Dollar Brain (1967). His scores for Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), and Murder on the Orient Express (1974), each earned him Academy Award nominations, with Murder on the Orient Express gaining a BAFTA award. Later works include Enchanted April (1992), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), and The Tale of Sweeney Todd (1998). He also wrote many orchestral works, piano solos, choral works and operas.

Honours[change | change source]

Bennett was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1977, and was knighted in 1998.[3]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Sad news: Richard Rodney Bennett is dead". Archived from the original on 2012-12-28. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
  2. Obituary in The Independent, Thursday 22 December 2012 p.38
  3. "Life Peers to Order of the Companion of Honour". BBC News. 31 December 1997.