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.
Audio Samples