Sad news: Hungary’s chief conductor has died, aged 64

Thye death was reported today of Zoltan Kocsis, international pianist and music director of the National Philharmonic Orchestra in Budapest.

He had been suffering illness for some time.

Kocsis was, with Ivan Fischer, Hungary’s pre-eminent concert musician.

They co-founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra in 1983 but parted ways when Kocsis demanded a greater role in conducting.

Kocsis became a favourite of the rightwing Orban government and was rewarded with a position at the head of the national orchestra in the national hall. In my conversations with him, he seemed indifferent to politics.

As a pianist, he was sensitive and passionate in equal measure. He recorded the complete piano music of Bartok for Philips, among many other recordings.


UPDATE: Ivan Fischer’s response.

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  • Kocsis was named chief conductor and artistic director of Hungarian National Philharmonic in 1997, a year before right wing government formed.

  • “Kocsis became a favourite of the rightwing government and was rewarded with a position at the head of the national orchestra.”

    This is quite misleading…
    He became music director of the orchestra in 1997 when Hungary’s socialist (not quite right-wing) government had been in power for 3 years…
    and I am not sure he was a favorite of any particular government.

    Otherwise, it is indeed a huge loss for the musical world.

  • His death is an enormous loss! May he rest in peace.
    And let’s not waste too much time on his sometimes really controversial statements. He was an outstanding musician and a great patriot of Hungary.
    Let us mourn by recalling a few moments of his life with the help of some great pictures taken at different times and places by Mr. Gábor Fejér, former chief photo editor of the recently “executed” Hungarian daily Népszabadság. Before clicking: on the landing page please go to the bottom menu line, click MUSIC and from the pop-up menu choose the artist.
    And if you have time click through the rest as well.

  • Just because he did not happen to follow the line taken by Andras Schiff does not mean that Kocsis was some sort of right-wing lap-dog. He was certainly not indifferent to politics and mentioning him in the same sentence as Orban does him a grave disservice. Everything Kocsis achieved was because he was a musical genius of the first order and he most certainly was never “rewarded” for any other reason.

    • I’ve only just learned of the death of Zoltan Kocsis. This is a sad event as he was a great pianist who will be very much missed.

      Regarding politics; I’m sure he was much too busy practicing and making music to have the time to do the necessary reading and analysis to make any sensible political commentary. And I feel sure he would have been too intelligent to just make shallow comments which reflect group-think as many musicians seem to do.

      RIP Maestro.

  • I saw him conducting Franck’s Symphony in March of this year, during which he provided the funniest moment of my musical year. A single member of the audience in a side box mistakenly clapped after the first movement. Maestro Kocsis turned slowly to the exact point of the solo clapper and bowed graciously to the man before continuing with the work. And yes, many in the audience applauded at the end of the second.

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