Dramatic Vocalise Database

Rózsa, Miklós (1907–95)

The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

The Red House (1947)

Quo Vadis (1951)

Julius Caesar (1953)

Knights of the Round Table (1953)

Ben-Hur (1959)

El Cid (1961)

King of Kings (1961)

Sodom and Gomorrah (1962)

Born in Budapest, Miklós Rózsa was exposed to Hungarian peasant music and folk traditions from an early age. He studied the piano with his mother, a classmate of Bartók at the Budapest Academy, and the violin and viola with his uncle, Lajos Berkovits, a musician with the Royal Hungarian Opera. By the age of seven, Rózsa was composing his own works. In 1926, he left Budapest to enroll at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied composition with Grabner and musicology with Kroyer.

In 1931 he moved to Paris where he was introduced to the genre of film music through his friend, and member of Les Six, Arthur Honegger. From 1935 to 1939 he frequently shuttled between Paris and London, where he composed for London Films under the Hungarian-born producer Alexander Korda. In 1939, following the outbreak of war, Korda was obliged to transplant the entire production corps of The Thief of Bagdad to Hollywood; Rózsa accompanied them to finish composing the music. There being little incentive to return to wartime Britain, Rózsa decided to stay in Hollywood. As a staff member at MGM (1948–62), he became one of the most highly regarded composers in the industry, writing music for over 100 films. From 1945 to 1965 he also taught film music at the University of Southern California.

Unlike most early Hollywood composers, Rózsa was classically trained. He is symbolic of the generation, of the exodus of European talent that would so radically change approaches to film scoring, and american culture in general.

In the early 1940s Rózsa met the English conductor Albert Coates, who had given the premiere of Delius's The Song of the High Hills and Holst's The Planets. “The fine English conductor Albert Coates and I became great friends. Coates had come to America before the war and had conducted concerts with all the great orchestras.” (Rózsa 1982, 94)