Obituary: Hungarian Composer Thomas Rajna Passes Away, Aged 92

By Logan Martell

Hungarian-born composer and pianist Thomas Rajna has passed away at the age of 92. He is remembered for his leading role in the performing arts of Cape Town, South Africa and abroad.

Born in Budapest, Rajna studied piano and composition from a young age, attending the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, where he would win the 1947 Liszt Prize. After moving to London, he studied at the Royal College of Music and soon performed at the BBC Proms, under conductors such as Carlo Maria Giulini, Colin Davis, and John Pritchard.

Following his time as a BBC broadcaster, as well as Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Rajna moved to Cape Town, South Africa, to join the Faculty of Music of the University of Cape Town in 1970. Here he was awarded a University Fellowship, as well as an Arles Award from the South African Broadcasting Corporation in 1981, and became Associate Professor of Piano in 1989.

Among Rajna’s works are the operas “Amarantha” (2000), and “Valley Song” (2005), the latter of which is based on the play of the same name by Athol Fugard. In 2001, he started CD label Amarantha Records, recording works from artists such as Dohnanyi, Messiaen, Bartok, Schumann, Barber, Brahms, Scriabin, and more.