Zoltán Kocsis Complete Philips Recordings (26CD)
Zoltán Kocsis’ gifts were apparent even before he began formal musical studies at the age of five. After attending the Bela Bartók Conservatory, he graduated from the Liszt Academy where he was a member of a distinguished troika of Hungarian pianists—with Dezsö Ránki and András Schiff—who emanated from the late 1960s class of Pál Kadosa; here, he also studied with Ferenc Rados and György Kurtág. At eighteen, Kocsis won the Hungarian Radio Beethoven Competition, which led to an extensive tour, and also the pianist’s first recording opportunity.
Celebrated for his versatile technique, Kocsis was also meticulous in his study of texts and sources, and brought a scholarly, inquiring mind to the art of performance. Inventive programming and contemporary repertoire were features of his orchestral and solo piano programmes.
His recordings for Philips of Bartók’s complete works for solo piano stand as a definitive treatment of the composer’s art. He also recorded Bartók’s three piano concertos with conductor Iván Fischer, with whom he had co-founded the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Beyond Bartók—whose works he also conducted with idiomatic richness—Kocsis made acclaimed recordings of Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Dohnányi. Drawing on his talents as a composer, he made his own transcription of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, concluding with imaginatively virtuosic figuration. His transcription of the Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, which at the climax spills on to multiple staves, deployed virtuosity to project the heights of passion. Virtuosity aside, the other predominant characteristic of his performances was the pellucid tone, consistently sensuous even in passages of heightened emotion, enhanced by the singing quality he unfailingly brought to melodic lines.
Had Kocsis recorded nothing else, his Bartók legacy alone would secure his place among history’s greatest pianists. Still, this comprehensive edition of his Philips piano recordings—marking what would have been his 70th birthday—proves that, in the end, the best specialists are the most universal of musicians.
J.S. BACH Die Kunst der Fuge
BEETHOVEN Sonatas Nos. 1, 5, 8 ‘Pathéthique’, 17 ‘Tempest’
LISZT Années de pèlerinage, Troisième année
GRIEG Sonata in E minor, Lyric Pieces Opp. 12 & 43
WAGNER/LISZT & WAGNER/KOCSIS Transcriptions from operas
DEBUSSY Solo Piano Music
DEBUSSY Fantaisie BFO/Iván Fischer
RAVEL Piano Concertos BFO/Iván Fischer
RACHMANINOFF Sonata No. 2 · Preludes · Études
BARTÓK Works for Solo Piano
MOZART Piano Concertos Nos. 11, 17 & 19 BFO/Kocsis
LISZT Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 BFO/Iván Fischer
DOHNÁNYI Variations on a Nursery Song BFO/Iván Fischer
RACHMANINOFF Piano Concertos Nos. 1–4 SFSO/Edo de Waart
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini SFSO/Edo de Waart
BARTÓK Rhapsody · Scherzo BFO/Iván Fischer
Music for Strs, Perc. & Celesta BFO/Iván Fischer
Piano Concertos Nos. 1–3 BFO/Iván Fischer
BFO Budapest Festival Orchestra
SFS San Francisco Symphony