Benjamin Frankel

About Benjamin Frankel

Benjamin Frankel was born in 1906 and came to music following a year's apprenticeship to a London watchmaker. He studied with Victor Benham, an American pianist, in England and Germany. He embarked on his career in 1923 playing violin and arranging for various bands on London's burgeoning jazz scene, all the while continuing his formal education at the Guildhall School of Music. He later joined the BBC Dance Orchestra and became the assistant to its leader, Henry Hall. He later became a musical arranger for the stage productions of Noël Coward and Charles B. Cochrane and joined the British film industry as a conductor and arranger in 1934. During World War II, he began writing for the concert hall, including chamber works (Sonata for solo violin No. 1, Trio for clarinet, cello, and piano), a song cycle (The Aftermath), and the overture May Day. Frankel principally functioned as a conductor in movies until the mid-'40s, when he began composing regularly for the screen. Sometimes credited as Ben Frankel, he started getting higher quality movies to score in the later '40s with The Seventh Veil and Mine Own Executioner. In 1949, he scored the thriller Night and the City, a high-profile production that might have been an international breakthrough for the composer. A conflict over British and American copyright law, however, led the studio to have the movie rescored by Franz Waxman for its American release, and Frankel's score went unheard outside of England until March 2003. Despite this setback, by the early '50s Frankel was getting a vast range of subjects to work with, including the thriller The Clouded Yellow (1951), the Alec Guinness fantasy/satire The Man in the White Suit (1951), and Anthony Asquith's Victorian satire The Importance of Being Earnest (1952). His 1952 Violin Concerto -- written in memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis -- brought him renewed attention from concert audiences. His film work became less frequent after the mid-'50s as he turned ever more attention to composing serious music, which eventually included eight symphonies and the opera Marching Song. His best-known work, however, is probably his score for the 1965 World War II drama The Battle of the Bulge. Frankel's film scores were melodic, but often stretched tonality to its outer limits. Beginning in the late '50s, his concert music was built on a unique, personal brand of twelve-tone serial technique.

London, England
January 31, 1906

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada