Soundtracks, Film Music, Original Score, Classical
Elegant, Theatrical, Elaborate, Autumnal, Complex, Energetic, Lush, Bittersweet, Sophisticated, Brash
Music Department, Composer, Soundtrack
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Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary)
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Salt and Pepper
Place of Death
Los Angeles, California, USA
Miklós Rózsa (18 April 1907 – 27 July 1995) was a Hungarian-American composer trained in Germany (1925–1931), and active in France (1931–1935), the United Kingdom (1935–1940), and the United States (1940–1995), with extensive sojourns in Italy from 1953. Best known for his nearly one hundred film scores, he nevertheless maintained a steadfast allegiance to absolute concert music throughout what he called his "double life."
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A child prodigy, Miklos Rosza learned to play the violin at the age of five and read music before he was able to read words. In 1926, he began studying at the Leipzig Conservatory where he was considered a brilliant student. He obtained his doctorate in music in 1930. Moving to Paris the following year, Rozsa had much of his own chamber music performed, as well as his 'Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song' and his 'Symphony and Serenade for Small Orchestra'. However, he soon became disenchanted with meagre wages for playing classical music in concert. Attempting to change his financial situation, Rosza managed to secure a contract with Pathe records to compose music for use in intermissions between movies. This was to be his first step in entering the more lucrative field of film composition. In 1935, Rosza went to London after being invited by the Hungarian Legation to write the music for a ballet. The resulting work, 'Hungaria', so impressed the director Jacques Feyder that he set up a meeting with fellow Hungarian Alexander Korda, who then commissioned him to write an opulent score for the romantic drama Knight Without Armor (1937). Rosza later recalled having to learn to write music for films 'the hard way': "I bought one German and one Russian book on the technique of film music and everything I learned from these books was absolutely wrong! But then I had long conferences with Muir Mathieson, who was the music director and conductor for Korda, and somehow I learned."
While writing the score for The Thief of Bagdad (1940), Rosza relocated to Hollywood where he remained gainfully employed over the next four decades. An expert at orchestration and counterpoint with a great flair for the dramatic, he often concentrated on the psychological aspects of a film. One of his innovations was the use of a theremin for the famous dream sequence in Spellbound (1945) which accompanies Salvador Dalí's transcendental nightmare images. Few composers have managed to convey suspense and tension as powerfully as Rosza with his eerily haunting scores for some of the Golden Era's best films noir (Double Indemnity (1944), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), The Killers (1946), The Naked City (1948)) or his lush, stirring music for spectacular epics (Quo Vadis (1951), Ivanhoe (1952), El Cid (1961)). In addition to winning three Oscars for his film work, Rosza also continued as a prolific composer of classical music, including Violin and Piano Concertos, a Concerto for String Orchestra, a Sinfonia Concertante and Notturno Ungherese (influenced, respectively, by Stravinsky and Bartok). In 1945, he was appointed Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California where also lectured on the subject for many years.
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Leipzig Conservatory, University of Leipzig
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