György Kurtág; born 19 February 1926) is a Hungarian classical composer and pianist. He was an academic teacher of piano at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music from 1967, later also of chamber music, and taught until 1993. György Kurtág was born in Lugoj in the Banat region of Romania, to Hungarian parents. He became a Hungarian citizen in 1948, after moving to Budapest in 1946. There, he began his studies at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, where he met his wife, Márta Kinsker, as well as composer 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, and graduated in piano and chamber music in 1951 before receiving his degree in composition in 1955. He married Márta in 1947 and their son György was born in 1954.
Following the Hungarian uprising in 1956, Kurtág's time in Paris between 1957 and 1958 was of critical importance for him. Here, he studied with Max Deutsch, Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud. During this time, however, Kurtag was suffering from severe depression, saying "I realized to the point of despair that nothing I had believed to constitute the world was true…".[This quote needs a citation] Kurtág received therapy from art psychologist Marianne Stein, who encouraged him to work from the simplest musical elements, an encounter that revivified the composer and 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 Budapest marks this crucial turning point; he refers to this piece as his Opus 1. He dedicated it to his therapist, Stein.
Kurtág worked as a répétiteur at the Bartók Music School (1958–63) and at the National Philharmonia in Budapest (1960–68). In 1967, he was appointed professor of piano and later also of chamber music at the Franz Liszt Academy, where he taught until 1993.
Kurtág's first international opportunity came in 1968 when his largest work to date, The Sayings of Peter Bornemisza, was performed by Erika Sziklay and Lóránt Szűcs at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music. The critical response was not positive, and his international recognition began to grow only later 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 (1993–95) and the Vienna Konzerthaus Society (1995). He then lived in the Netherlands (1996–98), again in Berlin (1998–99) and upon invitation by Ensemble InterContemporain, Cité de la Musique, and Festival d’Automne, in Paris (1999–2001). György Kurtág and his wife lived near Bordeaux from 2002 to 2015, when they moved back to Budapest. The couple remained married until her death in October 2019 in Budapest.