Award-winning composer of film scores Sir Richard Rodney Bennett passes away

 

Richard Garner
Tuesday 25 December 2012 20:28
Comments
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, circa 1970
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, circa 1970

Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, one of Britain’s most talented and versatile composers, has died at the age of 76. He is perhaps best known for his numerous film and television scores – for which he won a Bafta award and secured a series of Oscar nominations.

Among his memorable scores were music for the Doctor Who television series and films including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express – which won him his Bafta in 1974 – Far from the Madding Crowd and Nicholas and Alexandra.

The composer, who died peacefully in his adopted home of New York on Christmas Eve, was equally at home both writing and performing. He was honoured with a CBE in 1977 and received a knighthood in 1998.

Sir Richard once said his film and television work was “to earn money to subsidise my other work”, although he added: “I liked writing music that would be played next week by talented musicians. It was the best training there was.”

His major works included three symphonies and an opera, The Mines of Sulphur. Recent compositions included Reflections on a Scottish Folk Song for cello and string orchestra, which was commissioned by Prince Charles to commemorate his grandmother the Queen Mother.

He was equally at home performing as a jazz pianist and played regularly with Cleo Laine. His publisher, Gill Graham, of the Music Sales Group, described him as “the last of his kind”. “He wrote 32-bar jazz standards, the most complex serial music and everything in between,” she said.

Chris Butler, the company’s head of publishing, added: “Richard was the most complete musician of his generation – lavishly gifted as a composer, performer and entertainer in a multiplicity of styles and genres. He was a loyal friend to music, musicians and music publishing and we will remember him with great respect and affection.”

Sir Richard came from an artistic family – his mother had studied composition with Gustav Holst, and his father was a writer of children’s books. He turned down a place at Oxford University in the 1950s in favour of studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, alongside other distinguished composers including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Thea Musgrave.

However, he was later dismissive of his education at the academy, describing it as a “disaster”. “I learnt much more in the Westminster Music Library in Buckingham Palace Road, which was an absolute treasure house of 20th-century music,” he said. “London was very exciting,” he added. “It was cheap and we could live our own lives and be slightly bohemian without being raffish.”

Enjoy unlimited access to 70 million ad-free songs and podcasts with Amazon Music Sign up now for a 30-day free trial

Sign up

In his private life, he was known as a Scrabble enthusiast and a creator of enormous Christmas feasts. Ms Graham described him as “determined, hilarious and a great influence”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in