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György Kurtág ( ; born 19 February 1926) is a Hungarianmarker composer of contemporary music.


György Kurtág was born in Lugojmarker in the Banat region, Romaniamarker. In 1946, he began his studies at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Musicmarker in Budapestmarker, 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.

Following the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Kurtág’s time in Parismarker between 1957 and 1958 was of critical importance for him. Here, he studied with Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud, and worked with the psychologist Marianne Stein – an encounter that strongly stimulated his artistic development. 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 Budapestmarker marks this crucial turning point; he refers to this piece as his Opus 1.

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

Kurtág’s 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 Orchestra (1993-95) and the Vienna Konzerthausgesellschaft (1995). He then lived in the Netherlandsmarker (1996-98), again in Berlinmarker (1998-99) and upon invitation by Ensemble InterContemporain, Cité de la Musiquemarker and Festival d’Automne, in Paris (1999-2001). György Kurtág and his wife have lived near Bordeauxmarker since 2002.


The compositions before Opus 33, the orchestral work Stele dedicated to Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, 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 Kurtág’s 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 French title Officier des Arts et des Lettres in 1985, the Kossuth Award of the Hungarian government for his life’s 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 Academy of Arts, 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.

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 year’s editions of Musikfest Berlin, Vienna modern, Holland Festival and Festival d’Automne 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, and some at Universal Edition, Vienna.


  • op. 1 - String Quartet No. 1 (1959)
  • op. 2 - Wind Quintett (1959)
  • op. 3 - Eight Pieces for Piano (1960)
  • op. 4 - Eight Duos for Violin and Cimbalom (1961)
  • op. 5 - Jelék for solo Viola (1961)
    • op. 5b - Jelék for solo Cello (1961-1984)
  • op. 6 - Five Merrycate for Guitar (1962) - revoked, 1st and 3rd movement later published as
    • op. 6c - Splinters for Cimbalom (1973)
    • op. 6d - Splinters for Piano (1978)
  • op. 7 - The Sayings of P. Bornemisza (1963-68), concerto for soprano and piano
  • op. 8 - In Memory of a Winter Evening (1969), Four Fragments for Soprano, Violin and Cimbalom
  • op. 9 - Four Capriccios (1969-70), for soprano and chamber ensemble
  • op. 10 - 24 Antiphonae for Orchestra (1970-71), unfinished, only 1-3 composed
  • op. 11 - Four Songs to Poems by János Pilinszky (1973-75), for bass voice and ensemble
  • op. 12 - S. K. Remembrance Noise, Seven Songs to Poems by Deszö Tandori (1974-75), for soprano and violin
  • op. 13 - Hommage a András Mihály (1977-1978), 12 microludes for string quartet
  • op. 14 - Herdecker Eurhythmie (1979), for flute, violin, recitation and tenor-lira
  • op. 14d - Bagatelles (1981), for flute, double-bass and piano
  • op. 14e - Three Pieces (1979), for violin and piano
  • op. 15b - The Little Predicament (1978), for piccolo, trombone and guitar
  • op. 15c - Grabstein für Stephan (1989), for guitar and instrumental groups
  • op. 15d - Hommage a R. Sch. (1990), for clarinet, viola, and piano
  • op. 16 - Omaggio a Luigi Nono (to poems by Anna Akhmatova and R. Dalos) (1979), for mixed voices
  • op. 17 - Messages of the Late R. V. Troussova (1976-80), for soprano and chamber ensemble
  • op. 18 - Songs of Despair and Sorrow (1980-94), for mixed choir with instruments
  • op. 19 - Scenes from a Novel (1981-82), for soprano, violin, double-bass and cimbalom
  • op. 20 - Attila József Fragments (1981-82), for soprano
  • op. 21 - Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (begun 1980), unfinished
  • op. 22 - Seven Songs (1981), for soprano and cimbalom
  • op. 23 - Eight Choruses to Poems by Deszö Tandori (1981-82, 1984), for mixed voices
  • op. 24 - Kafka-Fragmente (1985-86), for soprano and violin
  • op. 25 - Three Ancient Inscriptions (1986), for voice and piano
  • op. 26 - Requiem for a Friend (1986-87), to Poems by Rimma Dalos, for soprano and piano
  • op. 27/1 - ... quasi una fantasia ... (1987-88), for piano and chamber ensemble
  • op. 27/2 - Double concerto (1989-90), for piano, violoncello and two chamber ensembles
  • op. 28 - Officium Breve in Memoriam Andreae Szervánszky (1988-89), for string quartet
  • op. 29 - Hölderlin: An... (A Fragment) (1988-89), for tenor and piano
  • op. 30b - Samuel Beckett: What is the Word (1990-91), for recitation, mixed voices and chamber ensemble
  • op. 31b - Ligatura-Message for Frances-Marie (The Answered Unanswered Question) (1989), for violoncello with two bows, 2 violins and celesta; or 2 violoncelli, 2 violins and celesta; or 2 organs and celesta
  • op. 32 - Lebenslauf (1992), for 2 bassett horns and 2 pianos (tuned 1/4-tone apart)
  • op. 33 - Stele (1994), for orchestra
  • op. 34 - Messages (1991-96), for orchestra
  • op. 34a - New Messages (1998-in progress), for orchestra
  • op. 35a - Hölderlin-Gesänge (1993-97), for baritone
  • op. 36 - ...pas à pas - nulle part... (poems by Beckett) (1993-98), for baritone, string trio and percussion
  • op. 37 - Fragments from the Scrapbooks of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1996), for soprano and instruments
  • op. 38 - Three Pieces for Clarinet and Cimbalom (1996)
  • op. 38a - Three Other Pieces for Clarinet and Cimbalom (1996)
  • op. 40 - Esterházy Péter: Fancsikó és Pinta (Fragments) – Introduction to the Art of Belcanto (1999), for voice and piano/celesta
  • op. 41 - Songs to Poems by Anna Achmatova (1997-in progress), for soprano and ensemble
  • op. 42 - ...concertante... (2003), for violin, viola and orchestra - winner of the 2006 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.
  • op. 43 - Hipartita (2004), for violin
  • op. 44 - Six Moments Musicaux (2005), for string quartet

Works without opus number:
  • Viola Concerto (1954)
  • Játékok ("Games") (since 1973, 7 Volumes as of 2007), for piano
  • In Memoriam György Zilcz (1975), for 2 trumpets, 2 trombones and tuba
  • 13 Pieces for Cimbalom (1982), for 2 cimbaloms
  • 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 (1988-90), for 1-hand, 2-hand and 3-hand piano
  • Ligatura E Versetti (1990), for organ
  • Aus Der Ferne III (1991), for Alfred Schlee's 90th birthday, for string quartet
  • Games and Messages for Winds (since 1984)
  • Signs, Games and Messages for solo violoncello or solo violin (since 1989)
  • Looking Back: Old and New for Four Players, Hommage à Stockhausen (1993), for trumpet, double-bass and keyboard instruments
  • Miriam Marbé in Memoriam (1999), for three recorders
  • Six Pieces for Trombone and Piano (1999)


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