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György Kurtág

born on 19/2/1926 in Lugoj, Romania

György Kurtág

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

György Kurtág (Hungarian: [ør kurta]; born 19 February 1926 in Lugoj) is a Hungarian composer.


György Kurtág was born in Lugoj in the Banat region, Romania.[1] In 1946, he began his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where he met his wife, Márta, and also György Ligeti, who became a close friend. His piano teacher at the academy was Pál Kadosa; he studied composition with Sándor Veress and Ferenc Farkas, chamber music with Leó Weiner, and theory with Lajos Bárdos. He graduated in piano and chamber music in 1951 and received his degree in composition in 1955.[2]

Following the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Kurtágs time in Paris between 1957 and 1958 was of critical importance for him. Here, he studied with Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud. During this time however, Kurtag was suffering from a severe depression: 'I realized to the point of despair that nothing I had believed to constitute the world was true...'. Kurtág received psychological therapy from Marianne Stein an encounter that revivified the composer and strongly stimulated his artistic development.[1] During this time he also discovered the works of Anton Webern and the plays of Samuel Beckett. The String Quartet he composed in 1959 after his return to Budapest marks this crucial turning point; he refers to this piece as his Opus 1. He dedicated it to his therapist, Stein.[3]

Between 1960 and 1968, he worked as répétiteur at the National Philharmonia in Budapest.[1] In 1967, he was appointed professor of piano and later also of chamber music at the Franz Liszt Academy, where he taught until 1993.[1]

Kurtágs international reputation began to take hold with Messages of the Late Miss R.V. Troussova for soprano and chamber ensemble, which had its premiere in Paris in 1981. Since the early 1990s, he has worked abroad with increasing frequency: he was composer in residence at the Berlin Philharmonic (199395) and the Vienna Konzerthaus Society (1995).[2] He then lived in the Netherlands (199698), again in Berlin (199899) and upon invitation by Ensemble InterContemporain, Cité de la Musique and Festival dAutomne, in Paris (1999-2001). György Kurtág and his wife have lived near Bordeaux since 2002.


The compositions before Opus 33, the orchestral work Stele dedicated to Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic, consist mainly of vocal solo and choral music, and of instrumental music, ranging from solo pieces to works for ensembles of increasing size. In several of Kurtágs pieces, space plays an important role: quasi una fantasia, premiered in 1988 at the Berlin Festival, is the first composition in which he explores the idea of music that spatially embraces the audience. Since Op. 33 a number of large scale compositions have been premiered, such as e.g. Messages Op. 34 and New Messages Op. 34a for orchestra, the Beckett settings pas a pas nulle part Op. 35, the double concerto concertante Op. 42 and 6 Moments musicaux Op. 44 for string quartet.

Kurtág is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1985, the Kossuth Award of the Hungarian government for his lifes achievement in 1996, the Austrian Ehrenzeichen and the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 1998. In addition, Kurtág is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, and of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin (both since 1987), and he was named an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. In 2006 he received the Grawemeyer Award for his composition concertante op. 42 for violin, viola and orchestra.

Invited by Walter Fink, he was the 14th composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2004. The Ensemble Modern and soloists performed his works op. 19, op. 31b and op. 17. On the occasion of his 80th birthday in February 2006, the Budapest Music Centre honoured György Kurtág with the celebration of a festival in his hometown. The same years editions of Musikfest Berlin, Vienna modern, Holland Festival and Festival dAutomne in Paris dedicated special programmes to György Kurtág. Kurtág often holds master-classes in chamber music, and appears in concerts together with his wife Márta. The couple plays an always-renewing selection of pieces for two and four hands from Játékok (Games) and transcriptions. The later volumes of Játékok bears the sub-title Diary Entries and Personal Messages. This, to some extent, reveals the lineage of the unique microcosms, which irresistibly involves the listener at recitals by Márta and György Kurtág.

Most of Kurtág's music is published by Editio Musica Budapest, some at Universal Edition, Vienna, some at Boosey & Hawkes, London.

Compositions by opus number

opus-no Title Instrumentation Year
op. 1 String Quartet No. 1 1959
op. 2 Wind Quintet 1959
op. 3 Eight Pieces piano 1960
op. 4 Eight Duos for piano violin and cimbalom 1961
op. 5 Jelek solo viola 1961
op. 5b Jelek solo cello 1961-1984
op. 6 Five Merrycate guitar 1962
op. 6c Splinters cimbalom 1973
op. 6d Splinters piano 1978
op. 7c The Sayings of P. Bornemisza Concerto for soprano and piano 1963-1968
op. 8 In Memory of a Winter Evening Four Fragments for soprano, violin and cimbalom 1969
op. 9 Four Capriccios soprano and chamber ensemble 1969-1970
op. 10 24 Antiphonae orchestra 1970-1971
op. 11 Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky bass voice and ensemble 1973-1975
op. 12 S. K. Remembrance Noise, Seven Songs to Poems by Dezs Tandori soprano and violin 1974-1975
op. 13 Hommage a András Mihály 12 microludes for string quartet 1977-1978
op. 14 Herdecker Eurhythmie flute, violin, recitation and tenor-lira 1979
op. 14d Bagatelles flute, double-bass and piano 1981
op. 14e Three Pieces violin and piano 1979
op. 15b The Little Predicament piccolo, trombone and guitar 1978
op. 15c Grabstein für Stephan guitar and instrumental groups 1989
op. 15d Hommage a R. Sch. clarinet, viola and piano 1990
op. 16 Omaggio a Luigi Nono to poems by Anna Akhmatova and R. Dalos mixed voices 1979
op. 17 Messages of the Late R. V. Troussova, words by Rimma Dalos soprano and chamber ensemble 1976-1980
op. 18 Songs of Despair and Sorrow mixed choir with instruments 1980-1994
op. 19 Scenes from a Novel soprano, violin, double-bass and cimbalom 1981-1982
op. 20 Attila József Fragments soprano 1981-1982
op. 21 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (begun 1980)
op. 22 Seven Songs soprano and cimbalom 1981
op. 23 Eight Choruses to Poems by Deszö Tandori mixed voices 1981-1982, 1984
op. 24 Kafka-Fragmente soprano and violin 1985-1986
op. 25 Three Ancient Inscriptions voice and piano 1986
op. 26 Requiem for a Friend to Poems by Rimma Dalos soprano and piano 1986-1987
op. 27/1 ...quasi una fantasia... piano and chamber ensemble 1987-1988
op. 27/2 Double concerto piano, violoncello and two chamber ensembles 1989-1990
op. 28 Officium Breve in Memoriam Andreae Szervánszky string quartet 1988-1989
op. 29 Hölderlin: An... (A Fragment) tenor and piano 1988-1989
op. 30b Samuel Beckett: What is the Word recitation, mixed voices and chamber ensemble 1990-1991
op. 31b Ligatura Message-Hommage à Frances-Marie Uitti (The Answered Unanswered Question) violoncello with two bows, 2 violins and celesta; or 2 violoncelli, 2 violins and celesta; or 2 organs and celesta 1989
op. 32 Lebenslauf 2 bassett horns and 2 pianos (tuned 1/4-tone apart) 1992
op. 33 Stele orchestra 1994
op. 34 Messages orchestra 1991-1996
op. 34a New Messages orchestra 1998-in progress
op. 35a Hölderlin-Gesänge for baritone 1993-1997
op. 36 ...pas à pas nulle part... (poems by Beckett) baritone, string trio and percussion 1993-1998
op. 37 Fragments from the Scrapbooks of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg soprano and instruments 1996
op. 38 Three Pieces clarinet and cimbalom 1996
op. 38a Three Other Pieces clarinet and cimbalom 1996
op. 40 Esterházy Péter: Fancsikó és Pinta (Fragments) Introduction to the Art of Belcanto voice and piano/celesta 1999
op. 41 Songs to Poems by Anna Achmatova (1997-in progress), for soprano and ensemble 1997-inprogress
op. 42 ...concertante... violin, viola and orchestra 2003
op. 43 Hipartita violin 2004
op. 44 Six Moments Musicaux string quartet 2005
op. 45 Triptic two violins 2007
op. 46 Colind Balad choir and nine instruments 2008 (?)
op. 47 Brefs messages for nine instruments 2011


  • op. 6 revoked, movements published as op. 6c and 6d
  • op. 10 unfinished, only 13 composed
  • op. 21 unfinished
  • op. 42 winner of the 2006 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Works without opus number:

  • Viola Concerto (1954)
  • Játékok ("Games") (since 1973, 8 Volumes as of 2010), for piano
  • In Memoriam György Zilcz (1975), for 2 trumpets, 2 trombones and tuba
  • 13 Pieces for Cimbalom (1982), for 2 cimbaloms
  • Games and Messages for winds (since 1984)
  • Transcriptions from Machaut to J.S. Bach (1985), for 4-hand and 6-hand piano and 2 pianos
  • János Pilinsky: Gérard de Nerval (1986), for violoncello
  • 3 In Memoriam (198890), for 1-hand, 2-hand and 3-hand piano
  • Signs, Games and Messages for solo violoncello or solo violin (since 1989)
  • Ligatura E Versetti (1990), for organ
  • Aus Der Ferne III (1991), for Alfred Schlee's 90th birthday, for string quartet
  • Looking Back: Old and New for Four Players, Hommage à Stockhausen (1993), for trumpet, double-bass and keyboard instruments
  • Epilog for Requiem of Reconciliation (1995)
  • Miriam Marbé in Memoriam (1999), for three recorders
  • Six Pieces for Trombone and Piano (1999)

Compositions by genre

Solo Instrumental

  • Piano
    • Suite for four-hand piano (1950-1951)
    • Elö-játékok (1973-1974)
    • Játékok (Games) for piano, four-hand piano and two pianos (8 Volumes, 1973-2010)
    • Szálkák (1973-1978)
    • 3 in memoriam (1988-1990)
  • Viola da Gamba

sospiri, gemiti (2011)

  • Violin
    • Hipartita for solo violin (2000-2004)
    • 29 Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for solo violin (1989-2004)
  • Viola
    • 29 Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for solo viola (1998-2005)
  • Cello
    • 19 Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for solo cello (1987-2008)
  • Double Bass
    • 4 Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for solo double bass (1999-2000)
  • Flute
    • 6 Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for solo flute (1992-2005)
  • Oboe
    • 6 Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for solo oboe (1997-2001)
  • Clarinet
    • 6 Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for solo clarinet (1984-2001)
  • Bassoon
    • 3 Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for solo bassoon (1986-2001)
  • Guitar
    • Cinque Merrycate for solo guitar (1962) (Revoked)
  • Organ
    • Ligature e versetti for organ (1990)
  • Cymbalum
    • Szálkák for cymbalum (1973)


  • Duets
    • 8 duets for violin et cymbalum (1960)
    • Tre pezzi for violin and pianoforte (1979)
    • 13 Darab két cimbalomra a Játékokból for two cymbalum (1982)
    • Panaszos kérlelö for recorder and piano (1988)
    • Tre pezzi for clarinet and cymbalum (1996)
    • Tre altri pezzifor clarinet and cymbalum (1996)
    • Játékok és üzenetek (Games and Messages) for woodwind duo (1998-2000)
    • Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for string duo (1978-2003)
    • Négy initium az Hommage à Jacob Obrecht-bl for viola and cello (2005)
    • Triptic for two violins (2007)
  • Trios
    • A kis csáva for piccolo, trombone and guitar (1978)
    • Bagatelles for flute, piano and double bass, arrangements from Játékok (1981)
    • Hommage à R. Sch. for clarinet (and bass drum), viola and piano (1990)
    • Myriam Marbé in memoriam for three recorders (1999)
    • Jelek, játékok és üzenetek (Signs, Games and Messages) for string trio (1989-2005)
  • String Quartet
    • String quartet (1959)
    • Hommage à András Mihály 12 microludes for string quartet (1977-1978)
    • Officium breve in memoriam Andreæ Szervánszky for string quartet (1988-1989)
    • Aus der ferne III for string quartet (1991)
    • Aus der Ferne V for string quartet (1999)
    • Hommage à Jacob Obrecht for string quartet (2004-2005)
    • 6 Moments Musicaux for string quartet (1999-2005)
    • Zwiegespräch for string quartet and electronics (co-written with György Kurtág junior) (1999-2006)
  • Other Quartets
    • Ligatura-Message to Frances-Marie The Answered Unanswered Question, for BACH-bow cello, two violins and celesta (1989)
    • Életút (Lebenslauf) for two pianos (tuned a quarter tone apart) and two basset horns (1992)
    • Rückblick De l'ancien et du nouveau pour quatre instrumentistes (trumpet, double bass and keyboards) Hommage à Stockhausen (1993)
  • Quintets
    • Wind quintet (1959)
    • In memoriam György Zilcz for two trumpets, two trombones and tuba (1975)
  • Other
    • Irka-firka születésnapra Mihály Andrásnak for two violons, two violas, cello and double bass (1991)
    • Játékok és üzenetek (Games and Messages) for winds, strings and keyboard (1992-2000)


  • 24 Antiphonae (1970-1971)
  • (Stele) for orchestra (1994)
  • ...a Százévesnek Hommage à Takács Jen for small string orchestra (2002)
  • Sinfonia breve per archi Fried Márta emlékére for small string orchestra (2004)
  • Új üzenetek zenekarra for orchestra (1998-2008)
  • Brefs messages (2010)


  • Mouvement for viola and orchestra (1953-1954)
  • Confessio concerto for piano (1980-1986)
  • ...quasi una fantasia... for piano and spatialized instrumental groups (1987-1988)
  • Grabstein für Stephan for guitar and spatialized instrumental groups (1978-1989)
  • Double concerto for piano, cello and two and spatialized instrumental groups (1989-1990)
  • ...concertante... pour violin, viola and orchestra (2003)


  • Tánc dal for children choir and piano on a text by Sandor Weöres (1950)
  • Bornemisza Péter mondásai for soprano and piano on texts written by Péter Bornemisza (1963-1968)
  • Egy téli alkony emlékére (4 fragments on poems by Pál Gulyás), for soprano, violin and cymbalum (1969)
  • Négy capriccio for soprano and chamber orchestra, on texts by István Bálint (1959-1970)
  • Négy dal Pilinszky János verseire for bassand chamber orchestra (1975)
  • Eszká-emlékzaj (7 Songs on poems by Dezsö Tandori, for soprano and violin (1974-1975)
  • Herdecker Eurythmie "sur des poèmes de Ellen Lösch", for speaker and tenor vielle (1979)
  • Poslanija pokojnoj R. V. Trusovoj 21 poems of Rimma Dalos, for soprano and ensemble (1976-1980)
  • Hét dal for soprano and cymbalum (or piano) (1981)
  • Stsenï iz romana 15 poems of Rimma Dalos for soprano, violin, double bass and cymbalum (1979-1982)
  • Három dal Pilinszky János verseire for bass and piano (1975-1986)
  • Requiem po drugu for soprano and piano (1982-1987)
  • Kafka-Fragmente for soprano and violin (1985-1987)
  • Három régi felirat for soprano and piano (1986-1987)
  • Hölderlin : An... for tenor and piano (1988-1989)
  • Samuel Beckett : What is the Word Siklós István tolmácsolásában Beckett Sámuel üzeni Monyók Ildikóval for solo alto (speaker), five voices and spatialized instrumental groups (1990-1991)
  • Samuel Beckett : mi is a szó Siklós István tolmácsolásában Beckett Sámuel üzeni Monyók Ildikóval for voice and upright piano (1990)
  • Pesni Unïniya i Pechali op. 18 for double mixed choir and instruments (1980-1994)
  • Requiem der Versöhnung for soloists, choir and orchestra (1995)
  • Üzenetek zenekarra for orchestra and mixed choir (1991-1996)
  • Hölderlin-Gesänge for solo barytone (and instruments) (1993-1997)
  • ...pas à pas nulle part... for barytone, percussion and string trio (1993-1998)
  • Einige Sätze aus den Sudelbüchern Georg Christoph Lichtenbergs revised version for soprano and double bass (1996-1999)
  • Esterházy Péter: Fancsikó és Pinta (Töredékek) Bevezetés a Szépéneklés Müvészetébe I for solo voice, piano and celesta (1999)
  • Colind Balad for tenor, two mixed choirs and instrumental ensemble (2000-2007)
  • Songs to Poems by Anna Akhmatova for soprano and ensemble (1997-2008)

A cappella

  • Klárisok for mixed choir on a poem by Attila József (1950)
  • Omaggio a Luigi Nono op. 16 for choir (1979)
  • Kórkép és Hattyudal for mixed choir (1978-1981)
  • József Attila-töredékek for solo soprano (1981)
  • Nyolc kórus Tandori Dezsö verseir for mixed choir (1981-1984)


This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.
  • Erkel Prize in 1955 and 1969
  • Kossuth Prize (1973)
  • UNESCOs International Rostrum of Composers (1983)
  • Music Prize of the Prince Pierre of Monaco Foundation (1993)
  • International Antonio Feltrinelli Prize (1993)
  • Composers Award of the State of Austria (1994)
  • Denis de Rougemot Prize of the European Festivals Association (1994)
  • Kossuth Prize for Lifetime Achievement (1996)
  • Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (1997)
  • Composers Award "Promotion of the European economy" (1998)
  • Ernst von Siemens Music Prize (1998)
  • Honorary Prize for Art and Science of the Institute for Advanced Study Berlin (1999)
  • Pour le Mérite for Science and Art (1999)
  • Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award, 2000.
  • Commander with Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (2001)
  • John Cage Award (2003)
  • Sonning Award (2003; Denmark)
  • Grand Cross of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (2006)
  • University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition (2006; U.S.) [4]
  • Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale for lifetime achievement (53rd International Festival of Contemporary Music; 2009)
  • Zurich Festival Prize (2010)
  • Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal (2013)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 György Kurtág. Retrieved on 2010-01-25.
  2. 2.0 2.1 György Kurtág biography, UE
  3. Griffiths, Paul (1995). Modern Music and After, Clarendon Press.
  4. 2006- György Kurtág.
  • György Kurtág. Retrieved on 2010-01-25. BMC biography in Magyar (English biography used inline)
  • György Kurtág (French). IRCAM Centre Pompidou (2008). Retrieved on 2010-01-25.
  • Kennedy, Michael (2006). "György Kurtág". The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861459-4.

Further reading

  • Halász, Péter. 1998. György Kurtág. Magyar zeneszerzok 3. Budapest: Mágus Kiadó. ISBN 963-8278-07-2.
  • Varga, Bálint András. 2009. György Kurtág: Three Interviews and Ligeti Homages. Eastman studies in Music. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press. ISBN 978-1-58046-328-7.
  • Willson, Rachel Beckles. 1998a. "The Fruitful Tension between Inspiration and Design in Kurtág's The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza op.7". Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung 11:3641.
  • Willson, Rachel Beckles. 1998b. "Kurtág's Instrumental Music, 198898". Tempo, new series, no. 207:1521.
  • Willson. Rachel Beckles. 2001. "Kurtág, György". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Willson. Rachel Beckles. 2004. György Kurtág, The Sayings of Peter Bornemisza, op. 7: A "Concerto" for Soprano and Piano. Landmarks in Music Since 1950. Aldershot, Hants, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-0809-7

External links


This page was last modified 07.04.2014 02:28:45

This article uses material from the article György Kurtág from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.