Thomas Rajna was born in Budapest in 1928 and started to play the piano and compose at an early age. He continued his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, winning the Liszt Prize in 1947. That year he left Hungary to settle in London and enrolled at the Royal College of Music. He soon appeared at the Proms under such conductors as Giulini, Colin Davis and Pritchard, also becoming a frequent broadcaster for the BBC. In 1963 Mr. Rajna was appointed Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School of Music.

His first commercial recording was the complete piano solo works of Stravinsky. Since then he has recorded music by Scriabin, Schumann and Messiaen, the piano part of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka with the New Philharmonia under Erich Leinsdorf, and Bartok’s Music for Strings, Celeste and Percussion with Sir George Solti and the London Symphony Orchestra. He has completed a cycle of recordings devoted to the entire piano music of Granados, and subsequently undertook the recording of Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Studies and 12 Etudes, op.l. Rajna has performed his own two Piano Concertos on a number of occasions.

He settled with his family in Cape Town in 1970 to take up an appointment at the Faculty of Music of the University of Cape Town, where he became an Associate Professor in Piano in 1989. In January 1981 he was awarded a University Fellowship by UCT and the same year received an Artes Award from the SABC for his series of radio programmes on Liszt. He completed his Piano Concerto No.2 in 1984. The following year he received a Doctorate in Music from UCT in recognition of his body of compositions.

During a 1990 visit to England he recorded the Schumann Piano Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and gave a recital of works by Dohnanyi and himself. During the same year Rajna played the solo piano part in the first, and, so far, only South African performance of Messiaen’s monumental Turangalila Symphony with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.

His 1990 Harp Concerto had its European premiere in Copenhagen at the Fifth World Harp Congress in July 1993. This work and his Second Piano Concerto (with Rajna as soloist) were recorded by the National Symphony Orchestra and released on compact disc in 1993.

His very first recording, Stravinsky’s complete solo piano works, which Rajna recorded in 1963 and which had been unavailable for some 25 years, is in international circulation again, after the digitally re-mastered disc was released by the Dutch label, Emergo Cassics, in their Saga Classics series in 1993.

1994 saw the completion of Video Games for Orchestra and his opera Amarantha. The former Foundation for the Creative Arts commissioned these works as well as the Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra (1995), premiered by Robert Pickup, the NSO and Richard Cock in 1996.

In the same year Dr. Rajna was a recipient of the UCT Book Award for his Harp Concerto. This annual award is given in recognition of outstanding contribution to any branch of learning and it was the first time that a musical composition was thus honoured. In 1997 Dr. Rajna received an Award of Merit by the Cape Tercentenary Foundation.

Rajna's Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra (1996), commissioned by the Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, was premiered in Durban in 1998. Lyon & Healy Harps of Chicago commissioned his Suite for Violin and Harp for presentation at the Seventh World Harp Congress in Prague in July 1999. Anna Verkholantseva, winner of the 1997 Moscow International Harp Competition, who premiered this work in Prague, has since then made a CD of it and has given performances of the Suite with her violinist partner, Alexander Trostiansky, in Moscow, London, New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

The opera, Amarantha, was premiered in November 2000 by Cape Town Opera in conjunction with the University of Cape Town Opera School.

In 2001 Rajna created his own CD label, Amarantha Records. His catalogue includes his performance of Goyescas by Granados, music by fellow Hungarian Dohnanyi and a selection of Rajna’s representative compositions.

The same year Rajna wrote Tarantulla for violin and piano in response to a commission by the Unisa International String Competition for the 2002 contest in Pretoria. The Cape Town première of Video Games by the Cape Philharmonic conducted by David de Villiers took place in August 2002 to public and critical acclaim. International violin virtuoso Mikhail Ovrutsky came to Cape Town to perform Rajna's Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra in May 2004. His Harp Concerto had its Swiss premiere in Basel in September 2004.

Rajna’s highly acclaimed recordings of the complete piano works of Granados made in London for CRD in 1976 were re-issued on six CDs and distributed worldwide by Brilliant Classics in 2004.

Between 2002 and 2004 Rajna completed another opera, Valley Song, based on the play by Athol Fugard. The première took place at the Spier Summer Arts Festival, Stellenbosch, in March 2005 and was revived at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival in 2007, where it garnered the prize for the best musical production in the Festival.

Rajna’s solo piano arrangement of six extracts from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals was published by Amarantha Music in 2005.

2006 saw the completion of The Creation- A Negro Sermon for chorus and orchestra, written for the First Cape Town International Summer Music Festival 2006 November-December.

Rajna’s Piano Preludes are part of the current syllabus for the Teachers’ Licentiate of the University of South Africa. In response to a commission by UNISA to write a set piece for the new Grade 7 Piano Examination Album he completed his Oriental Feast in August 2006.

His Violin Concerto was completed in October 2007.

In the course of celebrating his 80th birthday, the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra performed extracts from Valley Song at a gala concert during the Cape Town International Summer Music Festival in November 2008. Rajna himself was the soloist in his 2nd Piano Concerto on the same evening.



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