Overture to a Symphony Concert. Op 26. 1957, revised 1963 (Op 26a)
Rózsa's old publisher, Kurt Eulenburg, asked him for a short piece, not more than
eight minutes. Rózsa suggested an overture. The Hungarian revolution
was in progress and Rózsa's first thought was of a revolutionary piece but
eventually he abandoned the idea and wrote a plain Overture to a
Symphony Concert. In retrospect Rózsa felt that the music
was full of conflict and heroism and embodied something of the
spirit of that country's fight for its freedom and that this happened subconsciously.
The Hungarian revolt was much on his
mind resulting in a restless development
of two contrasting themes in a sonata structure expressing
persistence, strength and defiance.
The work is certainly full of
a sense of struggle and angst. The opening, canonic
fanfare expands into the principal melodic idea, which
tries valiantly to rise but constantly falls back on itself.
Rozsa works the orchestra up into a frenzy until a nervous,
edgy flute solo (later piccolo) tries to interject a note of
calm, as does an eerie-sounding, upward-reaching string
line that, like the first theme, falls back to the depths from
which it emerged. These three ideas are worked out in a
tightly-structured, mostly unrelenting musical argument,
rife with counterpoint, shifting metres and pounding
accents. A terse coda (considerably shortened by the
composer after the premiere) brings the work to an abrupt
close. The overture is dedicated to Eugene Zador, a fellow
Hungarian expatriate and composer who was Rozsa's
orchestrator during his MGM years.
Overture to a Symphony Concert had its premiere in Düsseldorf September 1957. Rozsa himself conducted.