RIP, Sir RRB
Imagine a composer who was schooled in the 1950s at Darmstadt, the Mecca of the super-strict post-WWII avant garde, who was one of the few pupils of modernist avatar Pierre Boulez, and who became one of his country's leading atonalists — and who also scored big-budget films like Far from the Madding Crowd and Murder on the Orient Express , played jazz piano in New York and London nightclubs, wrote popular songs, and performed cabaret with the likes of Cleo Laine and Eartha Kitt, not to mention raising his own smoky voice in song. What would you call such a composer? Eclectic? Open-eared? One thing you could certainly call him is rare. And alas, his kind is rarer still with the death at 76 on Christmas Eve of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.
We'll pay memorial tribute on WFCR with broadcasts of several of Bennett's works over the next several days, starting Wednesday afternoon during the 3:00 hour with his sultry and jazzy "Concerto for Stan Getz." You can also read more about Bennett in The Telegraph and, with links to some of his music, on Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc blog. Fortunately, the BBC has also made Lebrecht's interviews with Bennett and other classical musicians available for free listening in iTunes. His life was a story worth telling, and he told it candidly and well. In particular, I admire Bennett's willingness to create himself anew following a mid-life crisis in 1979, resulting in a move from London to New York, as well as a musical re-orientation away from modernist complexity to the music that gave him the most pleasure. Would that we all had the means and the fortitude to reinvent ourselves in this way, and with such happy results.