Jewish Music & Poetry Project

Poets & Musicians

Miklos Rozsa

Oscar-winning Hungarian-American musical prodigy Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995) began composing at the age of seven: he is said to have read music before he could read words. Born in Budapest to Jewish parents, he first studied piano with his mother—who had been a classmate of Bela Bartók—and violin and viola with his uncle. Rózsa converted to Lutheranism, and, in 1926, enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory; Breitkopf & Härtel began publishing his chamber music when he was only 21. Introduced to movie music by Honegger, Rózsa’s film career took off when he moved to London, where he composed scores for film director and producer Alexander Korda, with whom he went to Hollywood to finish The Thief of Baghdad. Rósza remained in Hollywood, first freelancing as a movie composer and conductor, and then at MGM, where he wrote music for more than 100 films over roughly 15 years. One of the primary composers of film noir scores, Rósza won three Academy Awards for the soundtracks of Spellbound (1945), A Double Life (1948) and Ben-Hur (1959), and taught film music at the University of Southern California for twenty years.