Monday, November 07, 2016

Farewell, Zoltan Kocsis

Zoltan Kocsis. Photo: Zsolt Szigetvary/MTI via AP,
Tragic news came yesterday that the Hungarian pianist and conductor Zoltan Kocsis has died at the age of 64. He was chief conductor of the Hungarian National Philharmonic and had also been active as a composer. In tribute, his fellow conductor Iván Fischer said: "Kocsis was a giant of music...his influence on his generation is immeasurable."

Many regrets that I never managed to meet him, and heard him play infrequently - he was not a regular visitor to the UK, and the loss was ours. I first heard him, in fact, while on holiday in Switzerland when I was 14, which must have been 1980. He gave a recital in the cinema, Pontresina, and nobody around had actually heard of him before, but he played his own transcription of the Prelude & Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde and the roof nearly flew off. I remember we were all left speechless.

Kocsis had heart surgery in 2012 and more recently had cancelled a number of concerts on medical advice.

Agence France Press says:

Kocsis had served as musical director of the National Philharmonic Orchestra since 1997 and became a household name among music fans from the United States to Japan as he took the ensemble on tour.
He underwent heart surgery in 2012, and last month cancelled upcoming concerts on the advice of doctors, according to the orchestra.
Born in Budapest in 1952, Kocsis began playing the piano around the age of three.
He first played abroad after winning the prestigious Hungarian Radio Beethoven Competition at the age of 18 in 1970, and made his first concert tour of the United States a year later.
He also performed extensively with the Berlin Philharmonic, and played with leading orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
In 1978, aged 25, he was awarded the Kossuth prize, Hungary’s highest state honour for artists, an award he won again in 2005.
Often taking the conductor’s baton with the BFO, Kocsis also began composing from 1987.
His pieces, along with his transcriptions of works of Hungarian composer Bela Bartok and the recordings he made from them, also won him wide acclaim. 
“His death is an irreplaceable loss for Hungarian culture,” said a statement from Hungary’s ministry of human resources.