Zoltan Rozsnyai: Conductor, University Music Director


Zoltan Rozsnyai, United States International University music director and conductor of the school's International Orchestra, died in his sleep at his home here early Monday morning.

He was 64; death was attributed to a heart attack.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Rozsnyai first came to international attention as founder and conductor of the Philharmonia Hungarica in 1956. That was shortly after he fled 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."

In 1977 he was to found a Golden State Opera company in Los Angeles but the project never materialized.

From 1978 to 1984, Rozsnyai was music director of the Knoxville Symphony, where he led the orchestra's participation in the 1982 World's Fair.

In 1985, he was recruited to develop USIU's International Orchestra, a 50-piece ensemble made up of young professional players recruited for a two-year graduate program in orchestra performance. Most of the members--who are not paid but receive room and board and earn master's degrees--have come from the People's Republic of China, with a smattering of European and North American students filling out their ranks.

The International Orchestra made its debut in La Jolla's Sherwood Auditorium in June, 1987. During the academic year, Rozsnyai led the orchestra in monthly concerts in La Jolla, downtown San Diego's Lyceum Theatre and the San Diego College Avenue Baptist Church. 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 group.

Rozsnyai is survived by his wife, Alyze Dreiling, International Orchestra concertmaster, whom he married a year ago. They had one daughter, Alyze Francesca. He is also survived by three other daughters, a son and four grandchildren from other marriages.

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