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RICHARD RODNEY BENNETT OBITUARY

I hope I am a composer who provides music which is beautiful to listen to and which people can use, because one without the other is for me only a halfway stage.

Richard Rodney Bennett


Richard Rodney Bennett, born 29th March 1936, died 24th December 2012

Tim Reynish writes:

My assessment of his career and his music for Wind Ensemble can be found in the edition of Wasbe World for December 2012.

Sir Richard Rodney Bennett was undoubtedly one of the most outstanding musicians of the last half century, equally at home playing the most abstruse cerebral post-Darmstadt piano works as he was improvising jazz in some club in New York or London, famed for his film scores, his operas, his symphonies and concertos, chamber music, songs and wind music. His four pieces for wind ensemble are all major works, and they have been featured regularly in WASBE Conference programmes since 1987.

BENNETT AT BOSTON, 1987 and 2007

Bennett was the first major British composer whom I commissioned for a wind ensemble work, and he remained a good friend and a stout supporter of the world of wind music throughout his life. The work was commissioned by BASBWE for WASBE, it was funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain, and the occasion for the commission was the WASBE Conference in 1987 at Boston University. The world premiere was by the North Shore Concert Band, and though many sources claim that the late John Paynter was the conductor, I was lucky enough to have that privilege. It was repeated at WASBE in Killarney in 2007, played by the International Youth Wind Orchestra conducted by Gerhard Markson.

THE FOUR SEASONS 1991 and 1999

Richard’s second work for wind was commissioned for the WASBE Conference held in Manchester in 1991, although the premiere was at the Cheltenham International Music Festival given by the RNCM Wind Orchestra conducted by Clark Rundell, repeated at Manchester two days later for the Conference. Eight years later it was selected for performance by the International Youth Wind Orchestra at WASBE in 1999, held in San Luis Obispo, conducted by Wayne Marshall.

TRUMPET CONCERTO 1995 and 2011

I heard Morning Music again at the Royal Academy of Music when the world premiere of Adam Gorb’s Metropolis was given; it was not a great performance, Metropolis had taken up too much rehearsal, but I sat next to Richard, told him I loved the work despite the relatively poor performance, and invited him to write another piece. He responded immediately with the proposal of a Trumpet Concerto, which we premiered in 1993; two years later we took it to WASBE in Hammamatsu to be played in a repertoire clinic, and the Concerto was played at WASBE in Taiwan in 2011 by the National Youth Wind Ensemble of Great Britain, conducted by Phillip Scott.

BENNETT IN SWEDEN 2003

The months leading up to the WASBE Conference in Sweden were fraught with problems both political and musical. I had engaged the great Swedish trombonist Christian Lindberg as our principal guest soloist, also as a composer and conductor, and had got together a consortium to commission a Trombone Concerto from Richard. I met him the previous Fall playing jazz in London and he claimed to have written some 12 minutes; it was going well, but he was lying. In the New Year a letter came to ask if he could change the work to a concertante piece with a saxophone quartet as soloists, but in the Spring this piece too was cancelled. Christian played Gunther Schuiller’s Eine Kleine Posaunemusik and wrote us his exciting post-Zappa Concerto for Winds and Percussion and we represented Richard with his superb chamber piece, Reflections on a 16th Century Tune for Wind Dectet, which I conducted with an ensemble from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

In recent years Bennett’s musical output has slowed down, his energies put into a series of brilliant collages using materials, into scrabble, dinner parties and his beloved cabaret turns. His legacy to the wind world of three major symphonic works in less than a decade, plus a fascinating chamber piece, is immeasurable.

Recordings Available:

Morning Music

Philharmonia a Vent/John Boyd Klavier 11150
RNCM Wind Orchestra/Tim Reynish DOYCD 037

WASBE International Youth Wind Orchestra/Gerhard Markson 7223-MCD

The Four Seasons

WASBE International Youth Wind Orchestra/Wayne Marshall 3147-MCD
Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra/Frederick Fennell KOCD 3578
RNCM Wind Orchestra/Tim Reynish DOYCD 037

Trumpet Concerto

Martin Winter/RNCM Wind Orchestra/Tim Reynish DOYCD 037

Reflections on a 16th Century Tune

Guildhall School of Music & Drama Wind Ensemble 4739-MCD

Ithaca College Wind Ensemble 6804-MCD