Extensively trained composer, pianist and musicologist who, while he was head of the Mannes College of Music, made a documentary short, "Sweet Sounds" (1976), about gifted five year-old music students at the school. This movie initiated Robbins's longtime collaboration with the filmmaking team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, who produced the film. He began composing scores for the producing-directing duo shortly thereafter, and his film career has been almost exclusively limited to their dignified historical and literary adaptations.
Robbins's work has, however, encompassed a remarkable range of music, from the delicate mixture of Stephen Foster and Clara Schumann which marked the poignant "The Europeans" (1979) to the opera he composed for "Jane Austen in Manhattan" (1980). "Quartet" (1981) evoked the world of Paris nightclubs, while "Heat and Dust" (1983) was filled with the sounds of India. Robbins won a Venice Film Festival award for the muted romantic music which perfectly complemented the tentative gay love affair between two men in "Maurice" (1987). Similarly supple, melodic compositions won Robbins his first Oscar nominations and added considerable dramatic weight to the increasingly tragic happenings of "Howards End" (1992) and the unconsummated romance of "The Remains of the Day" (1993). He later produced another documentary short, "Street Musicians of Bombay" and can be spotted in Merchant-Ivory's "The Bostonians" (1984) billed as, appropriately, "man turning on music".
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Directed documentary short film "Sweet Sounds," produced by Merchant-Ivory Productions
First major feature film credit, composing music on Merchant-Ivory film "The Europeans"
Played a cameo role of a man turning on some music in "The Bostonians"
First feature credit in a film not directed by James Ivory, "My Little Girl," which nonetheless featured Merchant-Ivory Productions as one of its co-producers; also composed the song "Alice's Song" film
Composed music for PBS-TV's American Playhouse presentation of "Love and Other Sorrows"
First feature credit on which Merchant-Ivory productions were not involved, "Bail Jumper"
Received first Oscar nomination for Best Music, Original Score for "Howards End"
Garnered second Oscar nomination for "The Remains of the Day"
Directed another short documentary film "Street Musicians of Bombay"
Collaborated with painter Michael Schell on "Via Crucis," a musical and visual collage representing the Stations of the Cross
Composed music for "Jefferson in Paris"
Final non-Merchant-Ivory film with his compositions, "The Girl"
Last Merchant-Ivory film to feature his music, "The White Countess"