Richard Rodney Bennett
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, CBE was a British composer renowned for his film scores and his jazz performance as much as for his challenging concert works. He has lived in New York City since 1979.
Richard Rodney Bennett was a pupil at Leighton Park School, the Quaker school in Reading, studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Howard Ferguson and Lennox Berkeley. During this time, he attended some of the Darmstadt summer courses, where he was exposed to serialism. He later spent two years in Paris as a student of the arch-serialist Pierre Boulez.
Bennett taught at the Royal Academy of Music between 1963 and 1965, and 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. He received a CBE in 1977, and was knighted in 1998.
As one of Britain’s most respected and versatile musicians, Bennett has produced over two hundred works for the concert hall, and fifty scores for film and television, as well as having been a writer and performer of jazz songs for fifty years. Studies with Boulez in the 1950s immersed him in the techniques of the European avant-garde, though he subsequently developed his own distinctive dramato-abstract style. In recent years, he has adopted an increasingly tonal idiom.
Despite his early studies in modernist techniques, Bennett's tastes are catholic, and he has written in a wide range of styles, being particularly fond of jazz. Early on, he found success by writing music for feature films, although he considered this to be subordinate to his concert music. Nevertheless, he has continued to write music for films and television; among his best-known scores are the Doctor Who story The Aztecs (1964), Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Enchanted April (1992) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). He is also a prolific composer of orchestral works, piano solos, choral works and operas. Despite this eclecticism, Bennett's music rarely involves crossover of styles.
In 1995, to celebrate its 200th issue, Gay Times magazine published list of people regarded as important to the British lesbian and gay community. Bennett was named as one of the key musical figures on the list.