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Miklós Rózsa

April 18, 1907 - July 27, 1995
born in Budapest, Hungary, composed during the Modern period
Miklos Rozsa already had a promising career as a composer in the concert hall when he started writing movie scores in the mid-1930s. By the end of that decade, he was working on the most expensive movie being made in England, and by the end of the decade that followed, he was under contract to the biggest studio in Hollywood.

Born into a well-to-do family in Budapest, Rozsa's musical sensibilities were shaped by his contact with the Magyar peasants who lived around his father's summer estate. As a boy he could read music before he could read words, and proved a natural musician, taking up the violin at age six. His earliest influences as a student were Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, who were regarded as dangerous radicals at the time. After studying at the Leipzig Conservatory, Rozsa embarked on a career as a composer and saw early success with his Variations On a Hungarian Peasant Song and his Theme, Variations and Finale -- the latter entered the repertory of several major conductors, including Bruno Walter, in the mid-1930s, and Rozsa received encouragement in his career from none other than Richard Strauss. He began writing music for films at the inspiration and suggestion of his friend Arthur Honegger -- Rozsa needed the income, and he liked the idea of writing music that would get performed and recorded quickly. Rozsa established himself as a film composer at London Films, the British studio founded by his fellow Hungarian Alexander Korda, and after impressing Korda with his work on thrillers like Knight Without Armor (1937), the producer chose Rozsa as the composer for his Arabian Nights fantasy film The Thief of Baghdad (1940). The latter proved too ambitious and expensive to finish in England once the war broke out, and the production was moved to Hollywood, and Rozsa with it. He spent the next eight years as a successful freelance composer, winning his first Oscar with his score for Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), which broke new ground in movie music with its use of the electronic instrument the theremin (and also yielded a popular piece of light classical music with the Spellbound Concerto). He became known for his ability to score crime movies, particularly the category now known as film noir, psychologically oriented tales of personal and criminal disorder, including The Killers (1946) and The Naked City (1947). In 1948, after winning his second Oscar (for A Double Life), Rozsa joined MGM, then the biggest studio in Hollywood, where he earned a third Oscar (for Ben-Hur (1959)) and a brace of nominations; his music graced some of the biggest movies of the era, including epics like Quo Vadis (1949) and costume adventure yarns such as Ivanhoe (1952), and serious topical dramas like The Red Danube (1949). Rozsa continued writing for the concert hall, although as a post-Romantic composer whose work was rooted in tonality, he found himself out of favor with the critics as early as 1943, when his Theme, Variations and Finale was performed by the New York Philharmonic. That didn't stop the performances or prevent commissions from coming in; he wrote his Violin Concerto for Jascha Heifetz, and into the 1960s and 1970s was writing concertos for piano, cello, and viola that were performed and recorded by such soloists as Leonard Pennario and Janos Starker. Rozsa remained active into the 1980s, composing music for a new generation of filmmakers, including Alain Resnais. At the time of his death in 1995, his concert and film music were in the process of being rediscovered and newly recorded. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Miklos Rozsa: Three Choral Suites [Hybrid SACD]

Title: Ben Hur Choral Suite, For Chorus & Orchsetra (arr. Daniel Robbins)
Title: Quo Vadis Choral Suite, For Chorus & Orchestra (arr. Christopher Palmer, Julian Kershaw)
Title: King Of Kings Choral Suite, For Chorus & Orchestra (arr. Daniel Robbins)
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Track List: Ben-Hur (Complete Music From The MGM Presentation)

Disc 1
Title: Ben-hur, Symphonic Suite From The Film Score
Disc 2

Comments

I was 8 years old when Spellbound came out, and I fell in love with the music and bought the piano version. It was a bit beyond my finger stretch but I memorized it and can still play at least the first few measures today. I wish Rozsa had been taken more seriously.
I like him music
it stinks!
babuon
I fell in love with the score fro Spellbound
He did El Cid?! I've seen that too!
I have known and loved the film scores of Miklos Rozsa since the early 1950's, when I encountered his music in the film "Quo Vadis", from which he subsequently derived his "Quo Vadis Suite". The exquisitely poignant second movement of this suite and the exultant fourth movement were frequent accompanimen t s to meaningful twilights and sunrises, respectively , during my high school and college years. I still visit them and bask in the sweet nostalgia they evoke.
juliebinder
I love Miklos Rozsa. I think his melodies are poignant, stirring adn dramatic. I did not know he wrote for movies in the crime genre, although I guess once he moved to LA he would have written for movies in any genre. I think he had a particular flair with the epic, sweeping music for the biblical and historical genres I am so familiar with in his works.
He's in a class by himself! Unsurpassabl e !
One of the unequaled film composers. His love theme for "Ben-Hur" is the perfect sampling of his work: vivid, passionate, mysterious, notable.
agpolsci
I was unaware of his compositions in the crime genre so I will have to watch for them on Turner Classic Movies. I love the scope and grandeur his compostions lend to the epics (Ben Hur, El Cid, etc).
ebrauner
about the similarities listed: they are only similar in that they composed for Hollywood movies; not in their musical style.
My favorite score of his is for the film, "Time After Time," about H.G. Wells inventing his own time machine and traveling to 1979 San Francisco.

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