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Born: 1926, Lugoj, Romania

“Every composition has its own rules aside from what the composer wants. The more precisely I knew what I was going to write, the less the piece wanted to go. The child decides when it wants to be born, not its mother.”

Though Kurtág studied piano, chamber music, and composition at the Liszt Academy in Budapest for the better part of a decade, a year spent in Paris with Messiaen and Milhaud proved decisive. In Paris he also worked with art psychologist Marianne Stein and made detailed study of Webern’s music, influencing the development of his carefully delimited, highly compressed music. He later withdrew most of the music he composed before his Paris sojourn, labeling the string quartet he composed when he returned to Budapest as his Op. 1. He has forged an international reputation for deeply expressive music, often the musical equivalent of diary entries and personal messages. He favors groups of compact, gestural miniatures, exploring composer/performer and performer/audience interfaces, including improvisatory and spatial elements.

Further listening:

Játékok (Games, 1975-)Frankl, piano (ASV)

Hommage à R. Sch. (1990)Brunner, clarinet; Kashkashian, viola; Levin, piano (ECM)