Playing with fire: a life of Zoltan Kocsis

Playing with fire: a life of Zoltan Kocsis


norman lebrecht

June 27, 2020

Documentary shared by the late artist’s son, Krisztián Kocsis, chronicling that year of possibilities, 1986-87.




  • Luis says:

    Thanks, Norman. A magnificent documentary. Zoltán was a great pianist and a very good person. He left us too soon. I always remember with great affection his concerts for Scherzo in Madrid.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Kocsis was a musician of genius. We lost him far too early.

  • Bill says:

    Yeah, 1986-76 was quite the year. Seemed like it would never end!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    There is some very lovely playing in this film, but I had to stop watching as the Hungarian, very badly overdubbed with German, made no sense to me and was driving me crazy.
    Zoltan Kocsis, of course, recorded brilliant versions of the complete piano works of Bartok for Philips in the 1990s. These recordings were thought of so highly in Hungary, and rightly so, that they were licensed in toto by Hungaroton for inclusion in their issue of the New Complete Bartok Edition. (I possess the original Complete Bartok Edition in which the piano works are divided among a number of pianists.)

    • Peter San Diego says:

      I agree about the overdubbing; since my Hungarian is much better than my German, it was especially frustrating. Much better to have subtitles.

      How I miss his artistry; there was so much repertoire left for him to explore (and then record).

    • Kocsis Krisztián Zoltán says:

      The overdub bugs me too, but what can you do, the documentary was made for the Westdeutscher Rundfunk, and raw footage likely doesn’t exist anymore. If anyone likes a challenge, an English subtitle for the video would be a possibility – I guess that would balance out things.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        It’s a wonderful doucmentary – well done!

      • Peter San Diego says:

        Alas, the overdubbing loses a great deal of the nuance in your father’s responses; perhaps someone who can listen “through” the German could reproduce his Hungarian words — I’d be delighted to provide a translation into English.

        By the way, does a recording of his string quartet exist? Surely, I’m not the only one who would love to hear it.