The Hungarian pianist and conductor, Zoltán Kocsis, began to play the piano at the age of five. After attending music school and the Béla Bartók Conservatory in his native city, he entered the Franz Liszt Academy there, where his professors included Pál Kadosa, Ferenc Rados and György Kurtág.
Zoltán Kocsis' international career began at 18 years old when he won the Hungarian Radio Beethoven Competition. He was invited to perform all over Europe, making appearances with the Berliner Philharmoniker, among many other ensembles. Since then he toured extensively in Europe, America, Japan, the Far East and Australia, performing with such orchestras as the Wiener Philharmoniker, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Philharmonia Orchestra, and participating in many prestigious festivals, including those of Salzburg, Edinburgh and Lucerne. He played under the batons of Claudio Abbado, Herbert Blomstedt, Christoph von Dohnányi, Charles Dutoit, Valery Gergiev, Lovro von Matacic, Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Georg Solti, Michael Tilson Thomas and Edo de Waart. Kocsis was invited by Sviatoslav Richter to perform recitals for piano, four hands, at the Hohenems and Tours festivals.
Zoltán Kocsis founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra with Iván Fischer in 1983 and remained one of its artistic directors until 1997. During those 14 years the orchestra established itself at the highest level, appearing on series at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Barbican in London, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris and Carnegie Hall in New York. It also performed at the Salzburg and Lucerne Festivals, the BBC Proms in London and the Prague Spring Festival. In 1995, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Béla Bartók's death, the orchestra presented an enormously successful Bartók series in Brussels, Frankfurt, Cologne, Paris and New York.
As a composer himself, Zoltán Kocsis is well-known for his affinity for contemporary music. György Kurtág dedicated several compositions to Kocsis, which the pianist performed across Europe. In 1997 Kocsis was appointed Music Director of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra. Among the remarkable concerts which characterized his first year with the orchestra was a performance of Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, acclaimed as the highlight of the Budapest Spring Festival.
Zoltán Kocsis now divides his time between playing and conducting. During the second half of the 2000's he appeared with both the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, and directed the Camerata Academica Salzburg both in Salzburg and on tour. He played at the Verbier and Ferrara festivals, at La Roque D'Antheron (recorded for DVD release) and twice in recital at Wigmore Hall in London. He toured extensively in Europe, the USA and the Far East with the Hungarian National Philharmonic, often performing his original transcriptions and compositions. As guest conductor or soloist worked with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Lorin Maazel, Philharmonia Orchestra, Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. He gave recitals throughout Europe.
Zoltán Kocsis was an exclusive artist with Philips Classics since the late 1970's. He also recorded for Denon, Hungaroton, Nippon Columbia and Quintana. His recordings have earned him critical accolades and major prizes including a Gramophone award and the Edison Prize. He recorded the complete series of B. Bartók's piano music, including both solo works and the pieces with orchestra. Kocsis' Sergei Rachmaninov, W.A. Mozart and Debussy recordings have also been highly praised by critics.
Zoltán Kocsis is often regarded as one of the living legends of the keyboard, a highly versatile, brilliant and at times enigmatic figure. He is a complete musician, pursuing a wide range of activities as a pianist, conductor, chamber music player, composer and arranger. Of a recent recital at the Wigmore Hall in London, The Independent wrote, "As an advocate of Bartók's music, Kocsis must surely be unsurpassed at present".