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'.
A selection of M&V articles about György Kurtág
Ensemble. An Enthralling Production - György Kurtág's 'Fin de Partie' impresses Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. Much to be Gained - Jenny Q Chai explores sound and colour, impressing Geoff Pearce. 'The pianist is assured, exciting to listen to and totally compelling.'
Ensemble. Old and New - Giuseppe Pennisi reports from Siena's Chigiana International Festival
CD Spotlight. Deeply Affecting - Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner's Janáček, Kurtág and Bartók, heard by Andrew Schartmann. '... a delightful array of sensitive performances ...'
Ensemble. Depth and Elegance - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the Printemps des Arts in Monte Carlo
Ensemble. Smoothly Compatible - Malcolm Troup is witness to the manual (four-handed) marriage of two musical missionaries
CD Spotlight. Arms Crossed - J S Bach transcriptions for piano four hands, heard by Howard Smith. '... modern yet familiar.'
DVD Spotlight. Ho hum! - Vidor Nagy plays Bach and Paganini, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... moments of splendour.'
Linear Clarity - Julian Jacobson's Wigmore Hall recital impresses Malcolm Miller
Ensemble. A New Dimension - Giuseppe Pennisi reports that chamber opera is alive and well
Ensemble. Exquisite Finesse - A concert by the Elias Quartet, reviewed by Mike Wheeler