Oscar-Nominated Composer Richard Rodney Bennett Dies

8:56 AM PST 12/31/2012 by Stuart Kemp
Paramount Pictures

The composer, who won a BAFTA in 1974 for his score for "Murder on the Orient Express," was knighted in 1998 for services to music.

LONDON – Composer Richard Rodney Bennett died at age 76 on Christmas Eve in New York,  sparking tributes on both sides of the Atlantic.

The British composer, a three-time Oscar nominee, is perhaps best known for his film and TV scores, including Hugh Grant starrer Four Weddings and a Funeral, Murder on the Orient Express and Doctor Who. Bennett died peacefully in New York, where he had lived for more than 20 years.

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Bennett, always known by his three names, secured a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for his score to Murder on the Orient Express in 1974. The film starred Albert Finney as detective Hercule Poirot.

He was three times nominated for an Oscar -- for Nicholas and Alexandra in 1971 and Far From the Madding Crowd in 1967 in addition to a tilt for Murder on the Orient Express in the same year he won the BAFTA.

David Arnold, the composer whose résumé boasts the Quantum of Solace score, hailed him as "one of our greats."

"Sad news about Richard Rodney Bennett," he said on Twitter.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of London's Barbican arts centre, described Bennett on the BBC News website as "one of the most rounded musicians of our time."

Jazz singer Ann Hampton Callaway wrote on Facebook: "Saddened by the loss of brilliant composer, arranger, pianist and friend, Richard Rodney Bennett.

"He was one of the first friends of the music world to welcome me to New York, teach me great songs, accompany and arrange for me and record with me. He had superb taste, great talent and a wicked sense of humor."

Bennett is often reported as saying he believed the best film music he composed was for Murder on the Orient Express, specifically the scene in which the train is first seen leaving the station at Istanbul.

His other film credits included Billy Liar, The Nanny, Equus, Yanks and Enchanted April.

He was knighted in 1998 for services to music.

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