Rozsa treasury includes 25 MGM scores

One of cinema’s all-time great composers is the subject of a massive new soundtrack box set — at more than 19 hours of music, believed to be the biggest single-composer Hollywood film-score collection ever released.

“Miklos Rozsa Treasury (1949-1968),” from the prolific Film Score Monthly label, is a 15-CD set that covers much of the Hungarian-born composer’s output for MGM — 25 scores in all, including several titles long-sought by collectors: “Madame Bovary,” “Quo Vadis” and “The Power.”

At $179.95, it’s a steep price, but producer Lukas Kendall said he’s already sold more than half of the 2,000 copies in the limited-edition pressing since its Jan. 10 release. “People have waited 50 years to hear some of these tracks,” he said, adding that he believes the effort will not only appeal to collectors but help “preserve his output for future generations.”

The FSM label (an outgrowth of the film-music magazine) has an arrangement with Warner Bros. to release film and TV music from the Turner Entertainment library, which includes pre-1986 MGM titles. It had already released more than a dozen Rozsa albums (including “Julius Caesar” and “Lust for Life”) when Kendall decided to pool the rest into a single box set.

It took five years to assemble all the elements, especially for early titles like “Quo Vadis,” the original tracks of which had been lost in a fire but were reconstructed from various film, tape and vinyl sources.

The set also includes Rozsa’s only surviving recording of the music of “El Cid,” not an MGM title but one originally released on MGM Records, and the contents of his 1963 greatest-hits LP (another MGM disc) that included his own re-recordings of “Spellbound” and “Ben-Hur.” A 48-page booklet is included, with another 70,000 words of detailed notes on each score available on the label’s website.

“The set broadens our perspective on Rozsa’s career,” says Miklos Rozsa Society founder and director John Fitzpatrick. “Because Rozsa normally wrote for standard film genres in a traditional symphonic idiom, people sometimes consider him a limited composer. Scores like ‘Crisis’ (for solo guitar) and ‘Something of Value’ (Kikuyu chants for a film set in Kenya) will raise a few eyebrows.”

Rozsa won three Oscars and was nominated for another 14 over a 45-year career in films. He died in 1995. While his lavish symphonic scores for epics like “Ben-Hur” and “King of Kings” remain popular, his classical output has also seen a resurgence, including new recordings of his violin concerto, orchestral and piano works on the Naxos, Chandos and Koch labels.

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