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Miklós Rózsa (1908–1995)

Author of Double Life: The Autobiography of Miklós Rózsa

Includes the names: Miklós Rózsa, Miklós Rózsa

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Miklós Rózsa was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of a well-to-do industrialist and landowner. He grew up in a privileged environment and was introduced to classical and folk music by his mother, Regina Berkovits, a pianist who had studied with pupils of Franz Liszt. His maternal uncle Lajos Berkovits, a violinist with the Budapest Opera, gave Miklós his first instrument at the age of five. By age eight he was performing in public and composing. He also collected folksongs from the area of his family's estate north of Budapest. In 1925, Rózsa enrolled at the University of Leipzig to study chemistry at the wishes of his father but transferred to the Leipzig Conservatory the following year. His first two published works, the String Trio, Op. 1, and the Piano Quintet, Op. 2, appeared in Leipzig. In 1929, he received his diplomas with honors and moved to Paris in 1932. There he continued to compose classical music, including his Hungarian Serenade for small orchestra, Op. 10 (later revised and renumbered as Op. 25), and the Theme, Variations, and Finale, Op. 13, which was performed by conductors such as Charles Munch, Karl Böhm, Georg Solti, Eugene Ormandy, and Leonard Bernstein. He was introduced to film music in 1934 by his friend Arthur Honegger and was impressed by the possibilities. However, it was not until he 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. He joined the staff of Korda's London Films, and scored the studio's epic The Four Feathers in 1939. On the outbreak of World War II, he emigrated to the USA with Korda and completed work on the score for The Thief of Bagdad (1940), which earned him his first Academy Award nomination and launched his Hollywood career. A further two followed with Lydia (1940) and Sundown (1941). In 1943, he received his fourth nomination for Jungle Book (1942) In 1943, he wrote the score for the first of several film collaborations with director Billy Wilder, Five Graves to Cairo, and the same year scored the Humphrey Bogart film Sahara. In 1944, his scores for Double Indemnity and for The Woman of the Town earned him separate Academy Award nominations in the same year. In 1945, Rózsa was hired to compose the music for Alfred Hitchcock's film Spellbound. The score, notable for its pioneering use of the theremin, was immensely successful and earned him his first Oscar. Two of his other scores from that same year, The Lost Weekend and A Song to Remember, were also nominated, making Rózsa the only composer to date to have won against two of their own scores. He earned another Oscar nomination for scoring The Killers (1946), and received his second Oscar in 1947 for A Double Life. That same year, he and Eugene Zador orchestrated music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for the film Song of Scheherazade, about a fictional episode in the composer's life. Among his other films scores were Brute Force (1947), The Naked City (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), Quo Vadis (1951), Ivanhoe (1952), Bhowani Junction (1956), Lust for Life (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), King of Kings (1961), The V.I.P.s (1963), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), Time After Time (1979), for which he won a Science Fiction Film Award, Eye of the Needle (1981), and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). He published a memoir, Double Life, in 1982. After suffering a stroke later that year, he continued to compose concert pieces but lived secluded until his death.
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