Miklós Rózsa: A Personal Remembrance
He was a film composer I remember fondly from the long ago days in the 1950s when I visited my local movie palace and walked into its spectacular mirrored entrance that opened up into a huge auditorium with vaulted ceiling. On that large movie screen I witnessed Rozsa's musical magic exhibited with such epics as IVANHOE, KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, and BEN-HUR.
Later on I watched on television many of the earlier films he scored, including the magical fantasy of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD [see Web Poll below], and three "film noir" classics...
DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE KILLERS, THE LOST WEEKEND
See also this recommended release:
DOUBLE INDEMNITY - Paramount Film Noir in Hollywood
(Intrada 2 CDs)
I was also quite taken with
Miklós Rózsa music for THE JUNGLE BOOK (1942) and SPELLBOUND (1945), both available in original 1940s recordings with Rozsa conducting on this CD...
The Film Music of
One of the first soundtrack albums I purchased was the M-G-M Deluxe Edition LP of BEN-HUR with notes by
Miklós Rózsa that also included a colorful hardcover book titled: "The Story of the Making of BEN-HUR." In the section of the book devoted to Rozsa's score are these comments:
It took seventy-two hours and twelve recording sessions to translate the score to the screen, and it emerges the longest ever composed for a motion picture. It was recorded in six channel stereophonic sound by the hundred piece M-G-M Symphony Orchestra under the baton on Dr. Rozsa.
Unfortunately, it wasn't the M-G-M Orchestra on the single LP album in this Deluxe Edition. It was the Rome Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carlo Savina. Many soundtrack purists scoff at this recording conducted by Carlo Savina, but it was still thrilling to hear this music in Stereo back when I first listened to it. A second LP album, titled "More Music From BEN-HUR" conducted by Erich Kloss (actually
Miklós Rózsa) was released later. In 1977,
Rózsa conducted a re-recording with the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Then finally, in 1996, the complete score was issued on an excellent 2 CD Rhino release, with
Rózsa conducting his magnificent Oscar-winning score from BEN-HUR. That double CD set is the one to get for those who treasure BEN-HUR, one the greatest film scores ever composed, and
Rózsa's grandest achievement.
Here's a passage from his candid autobiography, Double Life (1989) --
Ben-Hur was shown in Dallas and was a sensation. There was a standing ovation in the cinema, which is very unusual. People were eager to fill out the questionnaires which had been distributed. Wyler came up to me, embraced me, and said, 'Miki, you've written a great score.' 'But Willy, you've known this music for months and never said a word.' 'Ah,' he replied, 'but my wife's mother is a piano teacher here in Dallas. She knows everything about music. She just told me it was a great score!' Since then I have refused to listen to mother-in-law jokes.
In the last chapter of his autobiography,
Rózsa offers this comment on his music:
I do write music for people, not for computers... I believe in music as a form of communication; for me it is more an expression of emotion than an intellectual or cerebral crossword puzzle...I am a traditionalist, but I believe tradition can be so recreated as to express the artist's own epoch while preserving its relationship with the past...I have tried always in my own work to express human feelings and assert human values, and to do this I have never felt the slightest need to move outside the orbit of the tonal system. Tonality means line; line means melody; melody means song; and song, especially folk song, is the essence of music, because it is the natural, spontaneous and primordial expression of human emotion.
By listening to his wonderful film and concert music you can again experience his desire "to express human feelings and values." He was one of the most listenable composers of his era.
Miklós Rózsa...a man who wrote music "as a form of communication" for the people--all the people-- to enjoy.
And like all great composers, his memory lives on through his memorable music.
Editor, Film Music Review
More about Miklos Rozsa in the multi-media collection on DVD:
Music Masters: Fifteen Film Composers
His wonderfully candid autobiography, Double Life, is available at:
For information about his life and music,
Miklós Rózsa Society website:
Web Poll for Rozsa Film Scores
Miklós Rózsa film scores are the most popular?
From a 2007 web poll, the #1 spot is a bit of a surprise (but a very pleasant one). The other scores are also exceptional and listed by web voters including the tie film titles. Here are the web poll results for
Rózsa Film Scores
No. 1: THE THIEF OF BAGDAD
[Nos. 2-5: Four Way Tie - Listed Alphabetically]
KING OF KINGS
[Nos. 6-7: Two Way Tie]
TIME AFTER TIME
[Nos. 8-12: Five Way Tie]
KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE
LUST FOR LIFE
There are many Rózsa titles on the list of
100 Essential Film Scores of 20th Century
Two highly recommended CDs