Richard Rodney Bennett

(Angleterre - England)

Richard Rodney Bennett, who celebrated his 60th birthday in March 1996, is one of the most versatile of British composer/performers, equally at home writing for the concert hall or for film, and as a jazz pianist. He studied composition in London at the Royal Academy of Music and in Paris, where he became the first pupil of Pierre Boulez. He received the Arnold Bax Society Prize in 1964 and the Ralph Vaughan Williams Award for Composer of the Year in 1965. He was composer-in-residence at the Peabody Institute, Baltimore in 1970-71. As a jazz pianist, singer and composer, Bennett has toured extensively, made several recordings with jazz artists, and regularly appears as a soloist at jazz clubs in New York and elsewhere. In 1977 Bennett was awarded the CBE; two years later he moved from London to New York City, where he still resides.

Bennett's concert works have always been known for their richness of invention and development. Using such diverse inspirations as Debussy, Joplin, Monteverdi, the signs of the zodiac, the poetry of Rilke and Herrick, Greek legend, and Kandinsky, Bennett has fashioned a body of work that bears his signature of conviction, balance and elegance. His catalogue includes works for a wide variety of forces from solo instrument to full symphony and from brass band to opera. Key works compositionally include The Mines of Sulphur (1963), Piano Concerto (1968), Sonnets to Orpheus (1979), Symphony No. 3 (1987) and the Concerto for Sten Getz (1990).

Highlights of recent seasons include the distinction of having, in 1992, two world premieres in the same concert at the Proms in London: Variations on a Nursery Tune (a BBC commission), and Concerto for Stan Getz, which was written at Getz's request, but which he did not live to perform. The same year also saw the premiere of Sermons and Devotions, a work commissioned by and dedicated to the King's Singers in commemoration of their 25th anniversary season. The 1993/94 season included the world premiere of Bennett's Trumpet Concerto by the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Ensemble, conducted by Timothy Reynish in Manchester and the US premiere of Arethusa performed by An die Musik at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.

During 1995 and 1996, a series of high profile events have marked his achievements. In the autumn of 1995 he took up the International Chair of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music and during the 1995/96 season his Partita has been played by 17 different UK orchestras as part of the prestigious BT Celebration Series. A biography by Mike Seabrook (Scholar Press) and two discs of his orchestral works (Koch International) are due for release in 1997.

Current projects include a flute concerto for James Galway and the London Mozart Players and a full-ballet score Les Liaisons Dangereuses for the Royal Ballet in London.

Richard Rodney Bennett's music is published by Novello & Co.

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