Robert Russell Bennett

Russell Bennett led – for some seven decades – an active professional life, both as orchestrator of others’ music and as composer of a long list of concert works. He is reputed to have orchestrated all or part of some 300 Broadway and London productions between 1920 and 1976, and turned out hundreds of other published arrangements during his lifetime.

Spending the duration of his professional career almost entirely in New York City, Bennett made his acquaintance with those on both “sides” of the music business: Kern and Gershwin on one hand, and Rachmaninoff, Stokowski, and Reiner on the other. The great majority of his pieces were given New York premieres in the hands of prominent conductors, orchestras, and soloists.

Bennett made it clear to Kern and other songwriters that his personal preferences in music lay with the classics; though he was viewed as something of a “snob” by his Broadway associates for this reason, he saw the popular music industry as merely a money-making venture, with popular songs just another commercial commodity. This did not prevent him, however, from establishing a reputation for tastefulness, creativity, and restraint in his commercial scoring; for several decades he was acknowledged as the leading practitioner in his field.

-George J. Ferencz. Robert Russell Bennett: a Bio- Bibliography. Greenwood Press, 1990. p. ix.