Zoltán Kocsis, renowned pianist and conductor, dead at 64

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World-famous Hungarian pianist, conductor and composer Zoltán Kocsis died Sunday at the age of 64 after a long illness, a spokesperson for the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, of which Kocsis was music director, told state news agency MTI. 

“The (orchestra) informs with deep sorrow that Zoltán Kocsis, after a long illness borne with dignity, died this afternoon,” the orchestra said in a statement on Sunday quoted by MTI.

“Kocsis was a giant of music,” said acclaimed conductor Iván Fischer, who co-founded the world-renowned Budapest Festival Orchestra with the pianist in 1983.

Born in Budapest in 1952, Kocsis began playing the piano around the age of three, and rose to fame after winning the prestigious Hungarian Radio Beethoven Competition aged 18 in 1970.

In 1978, aged 25, he was awarded the Kossuth prize, Hungary’s highest state honour for artists, an award he won again in 2005.

A Kocsis recording of Debussyʼs piano works won the Gramophone Award in 1990, but he also recorded the complete piano works of Hungarian composer Béla Bartók to great acclaim.

From 1997, Kocsis became music director of the Hungarian National Philharmonic. He also performed extensively with the Berlin Philharmonic, and played with many other leading orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

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