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Zoltán Kocsis
Biography, CDs, concert review

CDs by Zoltan Kocsis from, and
Article added in April 2000

Born in Budapest in 1952, the pianist, composer and conductor Zoltán Kocsis commenced his musical studies when he was 5 years old and continued them at the Béla Bartók Conservatory from 1963, specializing in piano and composing. In 1968 he was admitted to the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, where Pál Kadosa and Ferenc Rados were his teachers. Already during his school years, he won the Hungarian Radio's Beethoven competition in 1970 and after finishing his studies, he was appointed in 1973 as a teacher to the Ferenc Liszt Academy's piano faculty. His first important debuts both at home and abroad were also in 1970 when he won the piano competition organized by the Hungarian Radio.
Zoltán Kocsis is also an acknowledged composer. He is one of the founders of the New Musical Studio of Budapest. His works, written for the Ensemble Modern and performed together with the ensemble at concerts, along with his Bartók and Schönberg transcriptions, have won him considerable appreciation in the profession. He is an expert performer of György Kurtág's works - many world premieres of the composer's works are linked to his name. His transcriptions of Wagner's works and the recordings made from them caused a general stir. Several of his transcriptions for piano and chamber orchestra can be heard from time to time in concert halls around the world.
During the last few years he has often performed as conductor, too, especially with the Budapest Festival Orchestra - he is one of its co-founders - and the Hungarian National Philharmonics. His repertoire as conductor and as pianist alike contain so-called peripheral works, hitherto neglected either because they are very difficult or due to reasons of program-policy (Tchaikovsky: Manfred, Rachmaninov: Isle of Dead, Bruckner: 8th Symphony, Debussy: Images). Amongst others he conducted the first Hungarian performances of Schönberg's monumental work, the Gurre-Lieder and Stravinsky's cantata: The Flood.

Concert at the Tonhalle in Zurich on March 27, 2000,
Having seen Zoltán Kocsis for the first time in Budapest in the early 1980s, his concert at the Tonhalle in Zurich on March 27, 2000, was an occasion not to miss. He began the evening with Mozart's Fantasie in c-minor KV 475. Kocsis played - especially in the lively Allegro - the high-pitched notes in a perfect, bell-like clarity of which he only possesses the secret. Beethoven's Sonata in c-minor followed. Again, the precision and purity of the high-pitched notes, even in the speediest, most virtuoso passages, was stunning. One could distinguish each and every note, played with absolute clarity. His variation of volume and the dramatic tension he was able to create were remarkable, too.
The second part of the concert was dedicated to Béla Bartók. He began with the Allegro Barbaro BB 63, Bartók's first composition in which he broke with the romantic tradition. This was followed by his works written for children BB 53 with their innocent and naive charm, by Bartóks Rumanian Popular Dances SZ 56, the 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs BB 79 and last but not least the Sonata for Piano BB 88. Kocsis fully rendered the drama in the Sonata - a work that had a deep impact on 20th-century music. The Allegro moderato was everything but "moderate". On the contrary, it was a dramatic, breathtaking storm, in complete contrast to the compositions for children. In the sostenuto and pesante, Kocsis convinced also in slow and calm passages. The Encores were devoted to the colorful compositions of Debussy. They were emotional and touching and had a deep impact on the public - Kocsis' playing remained transparent at even its most romantic and virtuoso moments. An evening to remember.

Zoltán Kocsis.

Zoltán Kocsis: Béla Bartók. Works for Piano Solo. Conductor: Iváb Fischer. Ensemble: Budapest Festival Orchestra. Ten Easy Pieces for Piano, BB 51; Three Burlesques, op.8c, BB 55; Seven Sketches, op.9b, BB 54; Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs, BB 79; Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, op.20, BB 83.

Kocsis plays Bartok. Get the CD from
Zoltán Kocsis is renowned for his Bartók interpretations. Kocsis began recording these works following a tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bartok's death. The cycle is an ambitious project involving a tremendous amount of study and research into forgotten scores. This CD is volume 6 in Kocsis' Bartók series.
Kocsis himself considers his second solo-album with works by Bartók (CD 446 016-2) his best record ever.
The recordings of Béla Bartók's complete works written for piano and orchestra, recorded in 1987 and performed with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fischer, won an Edison award. In 1990 his selection of Debussy's solo works was awarded with the Gramophone prize as the best instrumental recording of the year.

CDs by Zoltan Kocsis from, and