Sir Paul McCartney has opened up about his friendship with Sir Richard Rodney Bennett as he mourns the Oscar-nominated composer's death.

The 76-year-old musician, best known for his film and Tv scores, passed away at his home in New York on Christmas Eve (24Dec12), and MCCartney has now written an emotional message in tribute to his late pal.

The Beatles star reveals he was friends with Bennett for more than 20 years after they grew close in the 1990s while MCCartney was attempting his first foray into the world of classical music.

They worked together many times over the years, including a collaboration on 1997 classical album Standing Stone, and MCCartney admits he would tease his pal with prank calls throughout their friendship.

In a post on his website, the star writes, "It was very sad recently to hear of the passing of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett in New York on Christmas Eve. Having met him quite a few years ago, we had become good friends as well as sometimes work partners... I would phone him in New York where he lived and worked, sometimes tricking him by impersonating a fictitious long-forgotten friend from his past... Richard could be strung along for quite a few minutes before I let him know it was his mad friend doing a silly voice...

"After he was knighted in 1998 I phoned him and... pretended to be a crass New York business type. 'Is this Sir Bennett?' I asked. 'Yes it is,' he replied, politely as usual. 'I love your toons (tunes)... You do great music, I'm a big fan,' and so on and on and it was only when I let him off the hook by revealing who this idiot on the phone was that he cursed me in no uncertain fashion. I've laughed a lot. I'll miss him."

MCCartney adds, "I will miss his gentle but brutally incisive comments on music and life in general. I will miss his intelligence, quick wit and mischievous good humour."