Zoltán Kocsis has died in Budapest, the city of his birth, aged 64. He started playing the piano aged five studying then at the Béla Bartók Conservatory and then at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music where he worked with Pál Kadosa, Ferenc Rados and György Kurtág. Among the awards he won were the Hungarian Radio Beethoven Competition (1970), the Liszt Prize (1973) and the Kossuth Prize (1978).
As a pianist he recorded primarily for Philips and Hungaroton. His Philips recording of Debussy’s Images won him a Gramophone Award in 1990. Writing about the disc, James Methuen-Campbell commented that the ‘terrific refinement of Kocsis's pianism is matched by a compellingly vivid piano sound from Philips and the end result provided me with some of the most exotic and colouristically evocative piano playing I have heard for a long time’. For Philips he recorded the complete piano works of Bartók as well as the Rachmaninov piano concertos. In 2013 he won the Chamber Award for a Hungaroton recording of Bartók’s violin sonatas with Barnabás Kelemen.
Kocsis co-founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra with Iván Fischer in 1983, initially for festival performances, but in 1992 it became a full-time ensemble, quickly achieving renown as a truly great orchestra. In 1997 Kocsis took over another Budapest-based orchestra, the Hungarian National Philharmonic and quickly raised its standard. Together they recorded regularly, working on Hungaroton’s Bartók New Series delivering a series of magnificent and critical acclaimed discs (the coupling of Kossuth and The Wooden Prince was shortlisted for a Gramophone Award in 2007), as well as recordings for BMC.