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Richard Robbins Not Forgotten

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Last week the Music Division learned that American film composer Richard Robbins (1940-2012) had passed away earlier this month of Parkinson’s disease. Robbins, a well-respected composer, made his mark on late 20th-century/early 21st-century film music, having composed for dozens of films and earning two Academy Award nominations in his career. He is survived by his partner, composer and painter Michael Schell, with whom he collaborated on a musical/visual representation of the Stations of the Cross called Via Crusis in 1996. Though we are saddened by Robbins’ passing, the Music Division is honored to preserve his works, insights, and memory though the safe keeping of the Richard Robbins Collection.

Robbins, a Weymoth, Massachusetts native, studied at New England Conservatory and then in Vienna with Austrian-Dutch pianist Hilda Langer-Rühl. He went on to become the Director of the preparatory school at the Mannes College of Music. While working at Mannes in the 1970s, Robbins was serendipitously connected with producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory and ultimately went on to score almost every film the Merchant/Ivory team produced and directed, from The Europeans (1979) to The White Countess (2005). Robbins earned Academy Award nominations two years in a row for his original scores to Howard’s End (1992) and The Remains of the Day (1993). Robbins was an expert at incorporating the musical works of past composers into his film scores so as to represent the atmosphere of a specific era that spoke to the film’s characters while maintaining a modern voice and perspective.

The Richard Robbins Collection contains mostly music scores (including full scores and parts), but also scripts, articles, photographs, programs, and posters, most of which relate to the following films: Bail Jumper, Ballad of the Sad Café, The Bostonians, Cotton Mary, The Europeans, Heat and Dust, House Guests, Howard’s End, In the Gloaming, Jane Austen in Manhattan, Jefferson in Paris, Maurice, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, Place Vendome, The Proprietor, Remains of the Day, A Room with a View, Roseland, Slaves of New York, A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, Street Musicians in Bombay, Surviving Picasso, and Via Crusis. The Recorded Sound Reference Center and Motion Picture & Television Reading Room also hold sound recordings and video recordings that were accepted with the Robbins Collection. To consult any part of the Robbins Collection, please send an e-mail to our reference librarians via the Ask A Librarian reference service and let us know what you are interested in researching.


  1. He was such a wonderful film composer. His music for ”Maurice” can make me cry just in a seconds…

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