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Rezső Seress

Rezső Seress (Hungarian: [ˈrɛʒøː ˈʃɛrɛʃː]; 3 November 1899 – 11 January 1968) was a Hungarian pianist and composer. Some sources give his birth name as Rudolf ("Rudi") Spitzer.

Rezső Seress lived most of his life in poverty in Budapest, from where, being Jewish, he was taken to a labor camp by the Nazis during the Second World War. He survived the camp and after employment in the theatre and the circus, where he was a trapeze artist, he concentrated on songwriting and singing after an injury. Seress taught himself to play the piano with only one hand. He composed many songs, including Fizetek főúr (Waiter, bring me the bill), Én úgy szeretek részeg lenni (I love being drunk), and a song for the Hungarian Communist Party to commemorate the chain bridge crossing the river in Budapest, Újra a Lánchídon.

His most famous composition is Szomorú Vasárnap ("Gloomy Sunday"), written in 1933, which gained infamy as it became associated with a spate of suicides.

Seress felt a strong loyalty to Hungary, and one reason for his poverty while having a world-famous song was that he never wished to go to the USA to collect his royalties; instead, staying as pianist at the Kispipa restaurant in his home town. This restaurant had a pipe stove at the centre of its dining room, and was remarkably cold for a restaurant. The place was a favourite of prostitutes, musicians, Bohemian spirits and the Jewish working class.

As his fame began to wane, along with his loyalty to the communist party, Seress plunged into depression. Though he himself survived the Nazi forced labour in the Ukraine, his mother didn't- which increased his gloom.

Seress committed suicide in Budapest in January 1968; he survived jumping out of a window, but later in the hospital choked himself to death with a wire. His obituary in the New York Times mentions the notorious reputation of "Gloomy Sunday":

Birth and Death Data: Born November 3rd, 1889 (Budapest), Died January 11th, 1968 (Budapest)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1936 - 1940

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BAVE-93410 10-in. 11/26/1936 Domingo triste Agustín Magaldi Male vocal solo composer  
Victor BS-99879 10-in. 3/13/1936 Gloomy Sunday Johnny Hauser ; Paul Whiteman Orchestra Jazz/dance band, with male vocal solo composer  
Victor PBS-042548 10-in. 3/3/1940 Gloomy Sunday Artie Shaw Orchestra ; Pauline Byrne Jazz/dance band, with female vocal solo composer  
Gramophone 0EA2737 10-in. On or before 3/26/1936 Gloomy Sunday Paul Robeson Bass vocal solo, with orchestra composer  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Seress, Rezső," accessed July 25, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104906.

Seress, Rezső. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved July 25, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104906.

"Seress, Rezső." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 25 July 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/104906

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