Miklos Rozsa collection of music letters, photographs, and other material
Scope and Content
These letters, documents, photographs and manuscripts span three centuries of musical history. Rózsa collected these notes and letters over the course of a lifetime. Some he bought at auctions; others he received as gifts. Brahms' calling card with a brief note about a cantata, a few hastily scribbled bars of music in Richard Wagner's hand, a sentimental inscription to Rózsa from conductor Bruno Walter.
When the collection was in Rózsa's home, he kept it close to his studio and the piano where he composed. Asked if he would miss having them near, he replied, "yes, every one of them!" But having spent many years of his life teaching at USC, he said, nothing could make him happier than to see young people draw the same inspiration from the letters that he has.
Most of the correspondence relates to the composition, performance and business of music--Claude Debussy's 1899 missive about re-arranging a meeting with his publisher, for example, and Liszt's 1880 letter about going to Budapest to teach. Other writings deal with the mundane realities of daily life. Recurrent themes include the payment of debts (Liszt, 1853: "accept the repayment of my small debt, 8 Thaler, 18 gr."), the climate (Puccini, 1913: "My dear chap...Milan is terrible in winter and impossible in summer") and social amenities (Sergei Rachmaninov, 1906: "Birthday greettings to Nina Kushetz.").
Most of the letters in the collection were handwritten, though some of the more recent ones were typed. In a 1949 letter, which Rózsa said was his favorite, Richard Strauss attempts--in German--to explain to actor Lionel Barrymore the nature of his relationship with the Nazi party. Other items range from Tchaikovsky's apology, dated 1889, for being a tardy correspondent, which bears his large inked signature, to a faded typed message from Gustave Charpentier, dated Paris, 1932, regarding the broadcast of his "Poemes chantes" over Radio Paris.
The collection covers an intriguing mix of musical ruminations. One composer is struggling to finish an opera before he leaves for the country. Others are preoccupied by their health: Puccini, writing in 1906 from Paris' Grand Hotel de Londres, thanks his physician for a favorable urinalysis.
In addition to writings by musicians, the collection contains a 1670 letter from France's Louis XIV.
- 1670 - 1955
- Rózsa, Miklós (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Advance notice required for access.
Conditions Governing Use
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.
Miklós Rózsa was born in Budapest on April 18, 1907. He was raised in Budapest, and on his father's rural estate in nearby Tomasi he was exposed to Hungarian peasant music and folk traditions from an early age. He studied the piano with his mother, a classmate of Bartok 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, Rozsa was composing his own works. Later, as a student at the Realgymnasium, he championed the work of Bartok and Kodaly, keeping his own notebook of collected folktunes.
He decided to go to Leipzig, nominally to study chemistry; but having enlisted the support of Hermann Grabner (Reger's former pupil, assistant and successor at the Conservatory), Rózsa finally enrolled as a full-time music student. A performance of his Piano Quintet op.2 attracted the attention of Karl Straube, the then Cantor of the Thomaskirche, who was very impressed and furnished Rózsa with an introduction to Breitkopf & Härtel. They immediately offered him a contract, and the String Trio op.1 and the Piano Quintet op.2 became his first published compositions.
In 1929 he received his diplomas cum laude. For a time he remained in Leipzig as Grabner's assistant. In 1931 he moved to Paris where he completed his Theme, Variations and Finale (1933, rev. 1943 and 1966), a work that soon gained international recognition. (It was on the programme the night Bernstein made his conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1943.) In recognition of his musical achievements, Rozsa was awarded the Franz Joseph Prize from the municipality of Budapest in 1937 and 1938.
Rozsa was invited to compose "Hungaria", a ballet in one act, for the Markova-Dolin Company. Among those who heard it was the film director Jacques Feyder, who arranged for Rózsa to write the score for his next picture "Knight without Armour" (with Dietrich and Donat), which he was directing for Rózsa's fellow expatriate Hungarian, Sir Alexander Korda. The score Rózsa produced won considerable acclaim, and following the success of "Thunder in the City", his next picture, he was invited to join the staff of Korda's London Films. "The Four Feathers" was Rózsa's first big international success. From 1935 to 1939 he frequently shuttled between Paris and London.
At the start of WWII, Korda found himself obliged to transplant the entire production corps to Hollywood; Rózsa accompanied them. He docked at Manhattan in April 1940, and made his way west to Hollywood; and Hollywood became his home.
For a time Rózsa remained with the Kordas and scored another big success with "Jungle Book". In 1943 also he married Margaret Finlason, formerly secretary to Gracie Fields. Their daughter Juliet was born in 1945, their son Nicholas in 1946, by which time Rózsa was firmly established as one of the leading composers of the film colony.
Rózsa won the Academy Award in 1945 for his score for Hitchcock's "Spellbound", again in 1947 for "A Double Life", and for a third time in 1959 for "Ben-Hur". In 1945 he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California as Professor of Film Music, a post he retained until 1965.
In 1948 Rózsa joined the staff of MGM Pictures and remained with them until 1962, scoring many of the major productions of the 50s.
His skill at manipulating traditional forms is particularly evident in the "Concerto for Strings" (1943, rev. 1957) and the "Piano Sonata" (1948). Best known are his "Violin Concerto" (1953), written for Jascha Heifetz; the "Piano Concerto" (1966); the "Cello Concerto" (1968), composed for Janos Starker; and a "Viola Concerto" (1979) for Pinchas Zukerman.
Seemingly forgotten by a pop-oriented Hollywood in the 1970s, Rózsa experienced an extraordinary renaissance in later years. His film scores were rediscovered and successfully recorded by Charles Gerhardt, Elmer Bernstein, and Rózsa himself. Honorary doctorates were conferred by the College of Wooster (Ohio), and the University of Southern California in 1988. He received a Cesar award for the score for Renais' "Providence" (1977).
Rózsa summed up his career with an elegant memoir, "Double Life", published in 1982. That same year, a debilitating stroke began the final chapter, effectively ending his film career. The composer fought back with the toughness and tenacity that belied his courtly manner. Throughout the 1980s there emerged a series of solo compositions for flute, clarinet, guitar, oboe, violin, ondes martenot, and viola. Failing eyesight finally stilled his pen in 1988. His final years were severely restricted in their activity.
Rózsa died on July 27, 1995.
1.42 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
Language of Materials
The 123-piece collection of rare letters, documents, photographs and manuscripts spanning three centuries of musical history was collected by Miklos Rozsa. Most of the correspondence relates to the composition, performance and business of music. Other writings deal with the mundane realities of daily life, such as the payment of debts, the climate, and social amenities. Most of the letters in the collection are handwritten, though some of the more recent ones are typed. In a 1949 letter, which Rozsa said was his favorite, Richard Strauss attempts--in German--to explain to actor Lionel Barrymore the nature of his relationship with the Nazi party. In addition to writings by musicians, the collection contains a 1670 letter from France's Louis XIV. Rosza collected these notes and letters over the course of a lifetime. Some he bought at auction; others he received as gifts.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by musician.
Donated by Miklós Rózsa to the USC Thornton School of Music in November, 1993.
- Music -- 19th century -- Archival resources
- Music -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Musicians -- 19th century -- Archival resources
- Musicians -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Musicians -- History -- Archival resources
- Musicians -- Photographs
- Rózsa, Miklós -- Archives
- Finding Aid for the Miklos Rozsa collection of music letters, photographs, and other material
- 2012 September
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- finding aid revision date not supplied: Finding aid edited and encoded by Sue Luftschein
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