Born in Romania, György Kurtág started to study the piano with Magda Kardos and composition with Max Eisikovits in 1940. He left for Budapest in 1946 and studied at the Academy of Music: composition with Sando Veress and Ferenc Farkas, piano with Pal Kadosa, and chamber music with Leo Weiner. In 1957-58, he lived in Paris where he studied with Marianne Stein. He attended the lectures of both Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud. These influential events, also attended by members of the Concerts du Domaine Musical directed by Pierre Boulez, imbued him with the techniques of the Viennese School (Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern) then of Gruppen by Karlheinz Stockhausen. This stay in Paris had a profound effect on his compositional ideas. The first work that he completed upon his return to Budapest, the String Quartet, is given the label íOpus 1.’ Professor of piano, then of chamber music at the Budapest Academy from 1967 until his retirement in 1986, he pursues his pedagogical work to this day. The bulk of his works (less than 40 opus numbers) are small in form, and make use of the voice, in which he saw an instrument full of new possibilities that go beyond its traditional narrative or operatic functions.
Among his works, the following are notable: Eight duos for violin and cymbals, Op. 4 (1960-61); Les Propos de Peter Bornemisza, Op. 7 (1963-68); Four song-settings of poems by Janos Pilinszky, Op. 11 (1973-75); Twelve microludes for string quartet (1977); Grabstein for Stephan, Op. 15c, for guitar and orchestra (1978-79, rev. 1989); Messages of the late Demoiselle Troussova for soprano and ensemble (1976-80); Romantic scenes (1981-82); Officium breve for string quartet (1989); Song, Songs of Despair and Sorrow for chorus and ensemble (1980-1994); and Stele, Op. 33 for symphony orchestra (1994).
—biography from the brahms.ircam.fr database