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Richard Rodney Bennett, composer and pianist; 76



LONDON — British composer, pianist, and arranger Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, who was nominated three times for an Academy Award, has died in New York City at 76.

His publisher, ­Novello & Co., said Friday that Sir Richard died Dec. 24 after a brief illness.

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Sir Richard 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.

He was a student of Pierre Boulez in 1957-58, and his 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.

Sir Richard’s extensive output included more than 200 works for the concert hall and 50 scores for film and television, five operas, and settings of Christmas carols.

“Richard was the most complete musician of his generation, lavishly gifted as a composer, performer, and entertainer in a multiplicity of styles and genres,” said Chris Butler of ­Music Sales Group in London.

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

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?’ ”

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