Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Scope and Content
Title: Miklos Rozsa collection of music letters, photographs, and other material
Collection number: 0329
USC Libraries Special Collections
Language of Material:
1.42 Linear feet
Date (inclusive): 1670-1955
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.
Rózsa, Miklós, 1907-1995
[Box/folder# or item name], Miklos Rozsa collection of music letters, photographs, and other material, Collection no. 0329,
Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California
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.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by musician.
Donated by Miklós Rózsa to the USC Thornton School of Music in November, 1993.
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 Marc-Antoine 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.
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
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.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Rózsa, Miklós, 1907-1995 -- Archives
Music--19th century--Archival resources
Music--20th century--Archival resources
Musicians--19th century--Archival resources
Musicians--20th century--Archival resources