Miklós Rózsa (1907–1995)
Miklós Rózsa (born in Budapest) showed an early inclination toward music and began studying the violin at the age of five. After completing high school he went to Leipzig to complete his musical education.
In Leipzig he studied composition under Hermann Grabner (successor to Max Reger) at the Leipzig Conservatory. He was only 21 when the German publishing house Breitkopf & Härtel began to publish his first works, which soon attracted attention in the musical world.
Rózsa settled in Paris following a concert of his chamber music in the French capital in 1933. There he wrote "Theme, Variations and Finale" Op. 13, which had its first performance under Charles Munch's baton. Soon others followed, Bruno Walter in Amsterdam, Georg Solti in Frankfurt, as well as many of the leading conductors of Europe. Leonard Bernstein made his conducting debut, performing Rózsa's Op. 13, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1943.In 1937, and again in 1938, Rózsa received the Hungarian Franz Josef prize for composition. Also in 1938 his "Three Hungarian Sketches" Op. 14 were presented at the International Music Festival in Baden-Baden. This work was performed in America by Stokowski, Ormandy, Coates and Hans Lange.
Rózsa came to America in 1940 and became an American citizen in 1946. In 1943 he married Margaret Finlason and had two children, Juliet and Nicholas. Since 1945 he has been a member of the faculty of the University of Southern California.
At the invitation of Alfred Wallenstein, Rózsa conducted the first performance of his Concerto for String Orchestra Op. 17 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1945. Albert Coates premiered the work in Europe with the London Symphony Orchestra.
Three years later the choir of the First Methodist Church of Hollywood premiered of Rózsa's Motet for mixed choir "To Everything There is a Season" Op. 21. The Compinsky Quartet introduced his String Quartet No. 1 Op. 22 in 1951. In 1956 Jascha Heifetz premiered Rózsa's Violin Concerto Op. 24 in Dallas, Texas. Spivakovsky, Zsigmondy and Goldenberg performed it frequently in Europe, and America.
Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra introduced his "Vintner's Daughter" variations Op. 23a in 1957. The same year, the premiere of his Concert Overture Op. 26 took place in Duesseldorf under the direction of its composer. Walter Hendl in Dallas gave the work's first American performance, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic followed under John Barnett's direction.
In 1967 his Piano Concerto Op. 31 was premiered by Leonard Pennario with Zubin Mehta conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1971 Janos Starker premiered Rózsa's Cello Concerto Op. 32 with Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony.
In 1979 his Viola Concerto Op. 37 was premiered by Pinkus Zukerman with André Previn and the Pittsburgh Symphony. The same year Rózsa was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Wooster College. Eleven years later the University of Southern California presented him with an Honorary Doctorate.
In addition to his career as a composer of concert and chamber works, Rózsa has long been regarded as one of the most distinguished and successful composers of music for motion pictures. He launched this aspect of his career in 1937, when he was commissioned by Alexander Korda to write the score for "Knight Without Armour" in London. His ninety film scores written from then until 1981 include three for which he received Academy Awards: "Spellbound" (1945), "A Double Life" (1946), and "Ben-Hur" (1959). In 1978, Rózsa was awarded the French César for his musical score to Alain Resnais' film "Providence". Among his most successful film scores are: "The Thief of Baghdad" (1940), "Double Indemnity" (1944) and "El Cid" (1960).
Concert versions of his motion picture scores, such as "Jungle Book", "Ben-Hur" and the "Quo Vadis Suite" are popular contemporary works. Rózsa has often appeared conducting his own works with symphonic organizations in the USA and abroad.
A Miklós Rózsa collection has been established at the Syracuse University Library in New York.
Miklós Rózsa died in Hollywood in 1995.
(from: Miklós Rózsa Society)