Hungarian composer and pianist György Kurtág was born at Lugoj, Banat, Romania on 19 February 1926, to Hungarian parents. He moved to Budapest in 1946 and became a Hungarian citizen in 1948. He studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, where his teachers were Pál Kadosa (piano), Sándor Veress and Ferenc Farkas (composition), Leó Weiner (chamber music), and Lajos Bárdos (theory). At the Academy he became friends with György Ligeti and met his wife Márta.
Later, after the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Kurtág studied in Paris with Max Deutsch, Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud, and discovered the music of Webern and the plays of Samuel Beckett, which were to have an important influence on his music. This period, 1957 to 1958, was also important as he worked through a severe depression with help from psychologist Marianne Stein, and returned to Budapest to write a string quartet which Kurtág referred to as his Opus 1.
Compositionally, he is known for his miniatures, and for making use of space in his music.
He began to become known internationally in the 1980s, with the 1981 first performance of his Messages of the Late Miss R V Troussova, and from the 1990s onwards he has worked abroad increasingly, including in Germany, the Netherlands and France.
Kurtág's first opera, Fin de partie, based on Samuel Beckett, was first performed at La Scala Milan on 15 November 2018, eight years after being commissioned. Italian musicologist Enrico Girardi described the work as 'a masterpiece that will rewrite the history of modern music'.
CD Spotlight. Extending the Repertoire - Anett Fodor listens to Hungarian viola player Vidor Nagy. 'The mellifluous sound, the doleful melody, as well as Vidor Nagy's sensitive performance convince the listener that both the artist and instrument are worthy of recognition.'
Ensemble. An Odd Couple? - Kurtág and Brahms in concert, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
(Features listed in grey are in our archive, and available to subscribers only.)