Zoltan Rozsnyai, United States International University music director and and former conductor of the San Diego Symphony, died at home in his sleep early Monday morning at age 64. He death was attributed to a heart attack.
Rozsnyai was born Jan. 26, 1926, in Budapest, Hungary. He first came to international attention as founder and conductor of the Philharmonia Hungarica in 1956, after fleeing to Austria during Hungary's failed revolution that year. Rozsnyai recruited fellow refugees for his orchestra, based in Vienna. The Philharmonia Hungarica toured Europe and North America and recorded extensively for the next 10 years.
Rozsnyai made his U.S. debut in December, 1956, as guest conductor with the Minneapolis Symphony. He became an American citizen in 1967, the same year he accepted the post of San Diego Symphony music director. Under his leadership, the local orchestra achieved full professional status, and he conducted the orchestra's first commercial recording on the Vox label.
He resigned as music director in 1971, citing frustrations over funding and excessive competition from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which played several dates a year in San Diego. After the San Diego Symphony's executive committee tried to extend his retirement date to 1972, many of his musicians threatened to resign, saying they lacked confidence in his leadership.
Retired violist Joseph Wagner of Chula Vista, who joined the San Diego Symphony in 1954, recalled that Rozsnyai "was ambitious in attempting difficult larger works and helped the orchestra to grow."
From 1978-84, Rozsnyai was music director of the Knoxville Symphony, where he prepared the orchestra to participate in the 1982 World's Fair.
In 1985, he was recruited to develop USIU's International Orchestra, a 50-piece ensemble of young professional players recruited for a two-year graduate program in orchestra performance. Most of the members have come from the Peoples Republic of China, and a smattering of European and North American students fill out the ranks.
The International Orchestra made its debut in La Jolla's Sherwood Auditorium in June, 1987. Among the soloists who played with the International Orchestra were Ilse von Alpenheim, Gustavo Romero and Anthony Newman, who premiered his Piano Concerto with the orchestra.
Rozsnyai is survived by his wife, Alyze Dreiling, International Orchestra concertmaster, whom he married a year ago. They had one daughter, Alyze Francesca. From earlier marriages, he is survived by three other daughters, a son and four grandchildren.
At noon Saturday, a Mass will be sung by members of the Pro Musica Ensenada and the College Avenue Baptist Church at Holy Cross Chapel, 4470 Hilltop Drive.