The musical language of the 20th-century Hungarian composer and pianist György Kurtág refers on the one hand to the spontaneity of Bartók and on the other hand to the concentration of Webern. Kurtágs time in Paris in 1957-1958 was of vital importance to the origin of this language. There he studied with Messiaen and Milhaud, he examined and copied the works of Webern, and he received therapy from the psychologist Marianne Stein, who helped him recover from his depression and stimulated his creativity. The first composition he wrote after his return to Budapest, the String Quartet, was his first work in his own style, which he regarded as his Opus 1.
In the 1980’s Kurtág gained international recognition for the first time with his Messages of the Late Miss R.V. Troussova, and his creativity increased, which resulted in several international commissions. Since the 1990’s Kurtág has frequently worked abroad. He was amongst others composer in residence at the Berlin Philharmonic and lived a few years in Paris, where he collaborated with the Ensemble InterContemporain.
Next to his activities as a composer and pianist, Kurtág taught piano and chamber music at the Ferenc Liszt Academy from 1967 until 1993, which led him to write short pedagogical piano works, collected in the still ongoing compendium Játékok (Games), which consists of nine volumes at the moment. Kurtág and his wife Márta regularly perform a selection of pieces from this collection.