Miklós Rózsa (18 April 1907, Budapest, Hungary – 27 July 1995, Los Angeles) was a Hungarian-born composer trained in Germany (1925–1931), and active in France (1931–1935), England (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."
Rózsa was introduced to classical and folk music by his mother, Regina Berkovits, a pianist who had studied with pupils of Franz Liszt, and his father, who loved Hungarian folk music. Rózsa's maternal uncle Lajos Berkovits presented young Miklós with his first instrument at the age of five. He later took up the viola and piano. By age eight he was performing in public and composing. He also collected folksongs from the area where his family had a country estate north of Budapest in an area inhabited by the Palóc Hungarians.
Rózsa enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory on 1926 where he studied composition with Hermann Grabner. Rózsa emerged from these years with a deep respect for the German musical tradition, which would always temper the Hungarian nationalism of his musical style.
Rózsa's first two published works, the String Trio, Op. 1, and the Piano Quintet, Op. 2, were issued in Leipzig. Moving to Paris in 1932, Rózsa composed classical music, including his Hungarian Serenade for small orchestra, Op. 10 and the Theme, Variations, and Finale, Op. 13, which was especially well received and was performed by conductors such as Charles Munch, Karl Böhm, Georg Solti, Eugene Ormandy, and Leonard Bernstein.
Rózsa achieved early success in Europe with his orchestral Theme, Variations, and Finale (Op. 13) of 1933. He was introduced to film music in 1934 by his friend, the Swiss-born composer Arthur Honegger. However, it was not until Rózsa moved to London that he was hired to compose his first film score for Knight Without Armour (1937), produced by his fellow Hungarian Alexander Korda. After his next score, for Thunder in the City (1937), he joined the staff of Korda's London Films, and scored the studio's epic The Four Feathers(1939). In 1939, when production was transferred from wartime Britain , Rózsa travelled with Korda to Hollywood to complete the work on the The Thief of Bagdad (1940) The film earned him his first Academy Award nomination. A further two followed with Lydia (1940) and Sundown(1941). In 1943, he received his fourth nomination for Korda's Jungle Book (1942)
After completing work on the music for the spy thriller Eye of the Needle (1981), Rózsa's last film score was for the black-and-white Steve Martin film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), a comic homage to the film noir of the 1940s, a genre to which Rozsa himself had contributed scores. Although Rózsa's career as a composer for films ended following a stroke he suffered while on holiday in Italy later that year, he continued to compose various concert pieces thereafter; one of his last works being Sonata for Ondes Martenot, op. 45 (1989).
Works for Winds
- El Cid March (arr. Hawkins) (1963)
- King of Kings (arr. Debs) (2008)
- Ben Hur (arr. Melillo) (1959/2008)
- Ben Hur Overture (arr. Hawkins) (1959/1962)
- Parade of the Charioteers (arr. Hawkins) (1960)
- Theme, Variations and Finale (arr. Patterson) (1933/)