Richard Rodney Bennett was one of the most versatile musicians of our time: a prolific and highly respected composer of operas, a ballet, and orchestral, vocal, chamber and educational music; an accomplished pianist in contemporary music; a jazz pianist and composer; even a solo cabaret performer. And all this in addition to his parallel career as a composer of film scores, which began when he was nineteen, and won him international fame and numerous awards.
Born in 1936 in Broadstairs, in south-east England, Bennett began composing as a child, and from the age of eleven had informal consultations with the pioneering modernist (and expert film composer) Elisabeth Lutyens. He later studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Lennox Berkeley and Howard Ferguson, and in Paris with Pierre Boulez. The music which he composed after his return to Britain, although hardly adhering to the Boulezian avant-garde, was in a mainstream modern idiom employing serial techniques. But just as this modernist background has given underlying coherence to his film scores, so too in recent years his experience in popular idioms refreshed the language of his concert works. A resident of New York since 1979, Bennett remained a British citizen, and was knighted in 1998. He died in December 2012.
© 2004 Anthony Burton