By the time the Hungarian composer György Kurtág was born in Lugos in 1926, the town was called Lugoj, and had, due to the peace treaty of Versailles, been ceded to Romania. Kurtág grew up in a multi-ethnic environment. The first significant pedagogue-personality Kurtág came in touch with was his piano teacher Magda Kardos at Temesvár/Timisoara. Her influence has stayed with him ever since.
Kurtág met Ligeti at the entrance examination at the Budapest Academy of Music in 1946 for the first time. They were to form a life-long friendship. Some professors of the Academy gave Kurtág important impulses – such as Ferenc Farkas, who was also Ligeti’s teacher, as well as Leó Weiner, Lajos Bárdos, Pál Járdányi and others.
The next important encounter in Kurtág’s life occurred in Paris where he attended courses by Messiaen and Milhaud in 1957 and 1958. Most important of all, however, were the sessions with the psychologist Marianne Stein who specialised in artists. She tided him over a crisis which had paralysed his creativity for years.
On his way back to Budapest, Kurtág stopped over in Cologne where he first met Ligeti after the latter’s escape from Hungary in 1956. Ligeti introduced Kurtág to Stockhausen whose Gruppen made a tremendous impact on him. So did Ligeti’s Artikulation, realised in the electronic studio of West-German Radio. Back in Budapest, Kurtág composed his first string quartet which he denoted as his Opus 1 – to signify that it marked the starting point of his oeuvre proper.
On 1 December 2013, Kurtág was honoured with the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. In 2015, he received the BBVA Foundation “Frontiers of Knowledge Award”.