By MIKE QUIGLEY
In September, 1977, the late, great film composer Miklós Rózsa participated in several appearances and concerts in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario which I attended, along with several other fans. Following is the report which I submitted to Soundtrack magazine shortly after (some of the events mentioned, unfortunately, did not come to pass).
For three days at the Ontario Film Institute, there were showings of Rózsa films, (Lost Weekend, El Cid and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes), with lectures and discussions with Rózsa after each, and then two nights of concerts with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in an all-Rózsa program conducted by the composer (Overture to a Symphony Concert, Hungarian Serenade and the Theme, Variations & Finale; then selections from Spellbound, El Cid, and Ben-Hur with an encore from The Thief of Bagdad).
Fans to both events in Toronto and Hamilton brought quite a variety of items for Rózsa to autograph, ranging from the original 78 rpm issue of Jungle Book to souvenir books from Rózsa-scored movies like El Cid, King of Kings, Ben-Hur, plus piano scores of music from these pictures. One fan brought a huge pile of albums since he couldn't decide which ones to bring. As the composer signed his way through this pile, he remarked to the fans present, "I'm figuring out how much my royalties are."
When asked a barrage of esoteric questions about his music at a reception, a beleaguered Rózsa finally replied, "You people know much more about my music than I do!" He admitted conducting the orchestra on the album Ben-Hur, Vol. 2 (usually attributed to Erich Kloss). Rózsa recently finished re-recording Quo Vadis in London. Next year he will re-record King of Kings and then these two will be released together with the already completed Ben-Hur in a deluxe 3-record set. Ben-Hur director William Wyler suggested that Rózsa should use Adestes Fideles (Oh Come All Ye Faithful) for the Nativity scene, a request which Rózsa fortunately was able to resist. Next year, Elmer Bernstein may record Rózsa's Madame Bovary for inclusion in his Film Music Collection. When asked which of his works he would like to see recorded for the first time, the composer's first preference was for some of his classical compositions. As far as film music goes, he hoped that The Power would be considered.
Rózsa thought that Bernard Herrmann was the greatest American-born film composer. He regretted that Herrmann had refused to let anyone else work with him on his scores (particularly in the area of orchestration), since he thought that this had contributed to overwork and Herrmann' s illness and eventual death. Interestingly, Herrmann was considered originally to score Julius Caesar, which Rózsa ended up doing. Thus, Herrmann's recording of music from the picture many years later was kind of an ironic tribute. Mario Nascimbene was originally supposed to score El Cid.
Tiomkin, however, is no favorite of Rózsa's. In fact, Tiomkin's famous speech thanking the great musicians of yesteryear for his success in winning the Oscar for The High and the Mighty was responsible for Rózsa resigning from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So when Rózsa won the Oscar for his Ben-Hur score, he wasn't a member of the Academy. And Alfred Newman came in for criticism from Rózsa for not standing up to producer George Stevens, who deleted Newman's Hallelujahs from the score of The Greatest Story Ever Told. Rózsa also thought the music for The Song of Bernadette was inappropriate to the subject matter.
During a showing of The Lost Weekend, viewers noticed an uncanny similarity between one of the passages in Rózsa's score to a theme from Williams' Star Wars. The composer said he didn't notice. One of the fans later termed Star Wars a "tribute" to Rózsa.
Rózsa is currently working on his memoirs.
Updated & Remastered from the Original Negatives!
Programme from Rózsa's concert with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra
Overture to a Symphony Concert, Op. 26a
Hungarian Serenade, Op. 10
Theme, Variations and Finale, Op. 13
El Cid March
Concerto for Orchestra
The Mother's Love
The Burning Desert
The Rowing of the Galley Slaves
Parade of the Charioteers
The Thief of Bagdad
The Love of the Princess
Review of the concert from The Hamilton Spectator
Review of the concert from Silhouette newspaper
Article from Ontario Film Institute Film News, Fall 1977
Interview with Rózsa from FM Guide
Jeffrey Dane, who wrote a book about his friendship with Rozsa, has some reminiscences of the Hamilton concerts.
1970 interview with Rózsa from the Los Angeles Free Press.
Elwy Yost talks to Rózsa and others connected with film music, from PBS, 1984.
John Wilson conducts Ben-Hur Prelude and March of the Charioteers from Ben-Hur, BBC Proms, 2013
Rózsa's obituary from the Los Angeles Times.
To see The Miklós Rózsa Society Website, click here.
Some sheet music by Miklós Rózsa can be seen here.
Send me some e-mail.