Richard Rodney Bennett
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LONDON (AP) - British composer, pianist and arranger Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, who was nominated three times for Academy Awards, has died in New York City at age 76.

His publisher Novello & Co. said in a statement Friday that Bennett died on Dec. 24 following a brief illness.

Bennett was nominated for Oscars for the scores for "Far from the Madding Crowd" in 1967, "Nicholas and Alexandra" in 1971 and "Murder on the Orient Express" in 1974.

A student of Pierre Boulez in 1957-58, Bennett's work evolved from the avant-garde to a more tonal style. As a pianist, he performed with singer Claire Martin and he recorded music by George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen.

Bennett's extensive output included more than 200 works for the concert hall and 50 scores for film and television, five operas and miscellaneous works including settings of Christmas carols.

"Richard was the most complete musician of his generation - lavishly g ifted as a composer, performer and entertainer in a multiplicity of styles and genres," said Chris Butler, head of publishing for the Music Sales Group in London.

"He was a loyal friend to music, musicians, and music publishing and we will remember him with great respect and affection."

British composer Daryl Runswick said he had benefited from Bennett's help and encouragement.

"He was a cultured gay man and every aspect of his creativity was defined by elegance," Runswick wrote on The Guardian's website.

"He wanted, and achieved, a refined style in both his music and his life: that is why he went to New York, and was so happy there."

Bennett was born March 29, 1936, in Broadstairs near the English Channel coast, but his family moved to the safer area of Devon after war broke out. His mother, who had studied with the composer Gustav Holst and had sung in the first performance of "The Planets," was an early musical influence on her son.

"Peo ple ask what was the first piece of music I wrote. There was no first piece," Bennett said in an interview last year with The Guardian newspaper.

"I just scribbled away and eventually a C-major chord was there. I didn't ever decide I was going to be a composer. It was like being tall. It's what I was. It's what I did."

He moved to New York in 1979, following the end of a long relationship and feeling stifled in Britain. Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein supported his application for a green card work permit.

"I was doing a lot of things out of guilt," he said of his departure from Britain.

"I hated teaching composition. I was playing music I didn't particularly want to play, being on committees I didn't want to be on. I wanted to write music, and cook, and play cards, and have a nice time," The Guardian quoted him as saying.

In New York he indulged his passion for jazz, accompanying singer Claire Martin in shows at the Algonquin Hotel and dr awing praise from The New York Times as "a sensitive, truly intimate collaborator."

He helped Paul McCartney with his orchestral work "Standing Stone," commenting on sections faxed by the former Beatle.

"I sent him one, thinking it was pretty good," McCartney said. "A few minutes later, I got a fax back with the word 'feeble' scribbled across it.

"I phoned him straight back and said, 'Richard, that's what my teacher wrote on my essays. You're a sensitive artist, and if you don't like something, could you please write, 'That's a little below par?'"

Bennett coached Elizabeth Taylor to sing a nursery rhyme for the film "Secret Ceremony," for which he wrote the musical score. Prince Charles commissioned Bennett in 2005 to write "Reflection on a Scottish Folk Song" in honor of the prince's grandmother, Queen Mother Elizabeth.

Bennett was knighted in 1998. Funeral details were not announced.

ROBERT BARR, Associated Press

Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Published in The Spectrum & Daily News on Dec. 28, 2012.
Memories & Condolences
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18 entries
January 25, 2013
My Condolences to the Bennett family. A truly unique, giving and loving individual. Was always helpful with a thought or two about a song he would hear me do and I was just lucky to have known the man at all. Fine chap all around
Philip Levy
January 25, 2013
A lost treasure.
Richard was a treasure. A joy to know and enjoy his wit, humor, and great talents.I am privileged to have had in my life for much too short a time. His friendship was a very special gift. He is sorely missed. xxoo
Trudi Mann
January 25, 2013
A musical genius has left us. Not his song but "the melody lingers on..."
Paul Lewis
January 5, 2013
Although his passing is a sad loss to his family and friends because he was such a loving soul, we can be thankful for the times he spent with us and for the recorded music that will be with us forever. I shall miss the many talks we had before and after performances and his wit and kindness that he extended to me. I miss him so much. May he rest in peace.
Gregory Culling
December 31, 2012
To the Bennet family. I'm sorry for your loss I'm sure he will be missed by many. one day we won't have to worry about sickness death and violence

My Condolences
December 31, 2012
It's New Years Eve day right now and I just found out. A huge shock. Just got off the phone with Pinky, catching up about this terrible development. Richard was one sweet cat, always good as gold to me. Invited me to a some memorable fetes at his place. My M79 bus goes right by his building and always brings up immages of RRB to me.
Huge shock . . .
George Z
George Ziskind
December 31, 2012
My darling Richard. Living on in my heart and my music always. What a blessing it was to know and love him.
Devastating. He loved every minute of his life!
December 31, 2012
My condolences to the family & friends of Richard Bennett. May you find comfort from our Heavenly Father during your time of distress. Ps. 34:17
December 31, 2012
Cherish every moment of our friendship in New York at musical events...and loved trading singer and song opinions. Often he asked me if I knew a song with a certain phrase in it, and sometimes I was able to come up with it. Everyone loved him and we will continue to think of him whenever we hear his music. Fortunately there is a lot of recorded music...instrumental and vocal and classical.
Joe Regan Jr
December 30, 2012
A sad, sad loss. Aside from his immense musical talent, Richard was such a wonderful human being. I've missed not seeing him at Songbirds events, and now I'll miss him even more.
Anthony Croce
December 29, 2012
Sir Richard's passing is a true loss to the music world. For me, his loss is particularly profund among the cabaret scene such in NYC. I had the honor of meeting him on two occasions following his shows and he was just a nice, charming man.
Linwood Norman
December 29, 2012
Linwood Norman
December 29, 2012
If not one fallen sparrow does not go unnoticed to our loving Heavenly Father, says His son Christ Jesus, how much more is the passing of humans...........
December 29, 2012
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
December 29, 2012
May the love of friends and family carry you through your grief.
December 28, 2012
I am sorry to hear of the loss of your love one. Please accept my condolences and may you be comforted by our Heavenly Father's words at Philippians 4:6-7.
December 28, 2012
The music world mourns the death of Richard Rodney Bennett.
Dean Frick
December 28, 2012
May the God of comfort gives you strength during your time of grief.
Marie M
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