We’re two weeks away from the 100th anniversary of the birth of Hungarian-born composer Miklos Rosza, who is currently my favorite classical-styled movie-score composer. I change my allegiance all the time — Bernard Herrmann, Maurice Jarre, Max Steiner, Franz Waxman — but I always come back to Rosza.
A short list of Rozsa’s classic scores — Double Indemnity, Spellbound, The Killers (one of the best noir scores ever), Brute Force, The Naked City, Madame Bovary, Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table, Lust for Life, Ben-Hur, King of Kings, El Cid. Rosza’s scores performed the required duties (augmenting the moods and themes, intensifying the emotion) but they work on their own terms.
I posted the following about Rosza’s King of Kings score on 12.21.10: “Rosza sometimes let his costume-epic scores become slightly over-heated, but when orgiastic, big-screen, reach-for-the-heavens emotion was called for, no one did it better. He may have been first and foremost a craftsman, but Rosza really had soul.
“Listen to the overture and main title music of King of Kings, and all kinds of haunting associations and recollections about the life of Yeshua and his New Testament teachings (or at the least, grandiose Hollywood movies about same) start swirling around in your head. And then watch that Nicholas Ray’s stiff, strangely constipated film (which Rosza described in his autobiography as ‘nonsensical Biblical ghoulash’) and it’s obvious that Rosza came closer to capturing the spiritual essence of Christ’s story better than anyone else on the team (Ray, screenwriter Phillip Yordan, producer Samuel Bronston).”