Oscar nominee composed scores of Merchant Ivory films
Richard Stephen Robbins, who composed the scores for most Merchant Ivory films, drawing two Oscar nominations in the process, died on Nov. 7 in Rhinebeck, N.Y., following a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 71.Robbins drew Academy Awards nominations for original score for his work on “Howards End” and “The Remains of the Day.”He composed the score to almost every Merchant Ivory film from “The Europeans” (1979) to 2005’s “The White Countess.” He went on to compose the scores for films including “Heat and Dust,” “Quartet,” “Maurice,” “A Room With a View,” “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge” and “Jefferson in Paris,” utilizing a variety of styles ranging from jazz to the sounds of India. The composer was introduced to filmmakers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the screenwriter behind most of their films, whose daughter he was teaching. Robbins’ first film work came in “Sweet Sounds,” a documentary about gifted 5-year-old music students, conceived and directed by Robbins and produced by Merchant and Ivory. Robbins also directed the 1993 documentary “Street Musicians of Bombay” (1993), centering on the street life of Bombay. In 1994 he collaborated with painter Michael Schell on “Via Crucis,” a musical and visual collage representing the Stations of the Cross. Robbins’ work was honored at a 1996 benefit concert held at Carnegie Hall and supporting AIDS research. He was born in South Weymouth, Mass., and began his musical studies at age 5. He graduated from the New England Conservatory and continued his studies in Vienna. Robbins is survived by his longtime partner, Michael T. Schell; four brothers; and several nieces and nephews. Contributions may be made to Columbia-Greene Humane Society, 125 Humane Society Road, Hudson, NY 12534.