LONDON – 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 Friday that Bennett died on Dec. 24 after a brief illness.
Bennett was nominated for Oscars for the scores of “Far from the Madding Crowd” in 1967, “Nicholas and Alexandra” in 1971 and “Murder on the Orient Express” in 1974.
As a pianist, he performed with singer Claire Martin and 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.
He moved to New York in 1979, following the end of a long relationship and feeling stifled in Britain.
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.