Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer, conductor, arranger, music teacher, and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era. Considered one of the greatest pianists ever, Liszt's works influenced his contemporaries and successors alike. Perhaps his greatest legacy is his work as a teacher, although his rich body of work might suggest otherwise; he taught people like Karl Klindworth among other pianists.
Being a descendant of violinist Leopold Auer, Hungarian-Austrian composer Gyorgy Ligeti was no stranger to music in childhood. He lost his entire family, except his mother, to the Holocaust, but that didn’t prevent him from studying music later. He rose to be a legend of avant-garde music.
Bela Bartok was a Hungarian pianist, composer, and ethnomusicologist. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most prominent composers, Bartok is also counted among Hungary's greatest composers of all time. He is credited with co-founding comparative musicology, which came to be known as ethnomusicology.
Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III is largely held responsible for ending the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 with 2 peace treaties known as the Peace of Westphalia. He also conspired against Generalissimo Albrecht von Wallenstein when he was denied control of the imperial army. He was also instrumental in the Peace of Prague.
Hungarian composer and folk music legend Zoltan Kodaly pioneered what is known as the Kodály method of music education. His style reflected a fusion of Hungarian, Italian, and French tunes. His music originated from years of research on folk music in Hungarian villages, leading to his thesis on the same.
Born in Hungary, Miklós Rózsa was a music prodigy and learned to play the violin at age 5. After studying music in Germany, he pursued his music career in France, the UK, and the US. He is remembered for his Academy Award-winning scores in movies such as Ben-Hur and Spellbound.
Hungarian composer Franz Lehár is best remembered for his operettas and became a worldwide sensation with The Merry Widow, which was later filmed, too. His distinctive style of Viennese operetta consisted of satire and Parisian dances. Though he had a Jewish-turned-Catholic wife, Hitler loved his music.
Hungarian violinist and composer Joseph Joachim was trained in Budapest and London before he became the director of the Hochschule für Ausübende Tonkunst in Berlin. He formed the Joachim Quartet and gained fame as a music teacher. He is best known for his versions of works by legends such as Beethoven.
While he began playing the piano at age 2 and created his first composition by age 7, Hungarian pianist Peter Bence later soared to fame with his rendition of Despacito. The Berklee College of Music scholar also holds the Guinness record of the world’s fastest piano player and has performed in 40 countries.
Legendary Czech composer Julius Fučík, also known as the Bohemian Sousa, initially played the bassoon for the Austro-Hungarian Regiment and then bagged a job with the German opera theater in Prague. His best-known marches include the Florentine March and Entrance of the Gladiators. He spent his final years in Berlin.
Balazs Havasi began playing the piano at age 4 and was already teaching at the Weiner Leó Conservatory by 21. The Hungarian pianist is known for his band The Unbending Trees and for his cultural project with China. He is also the first Hungarian musician to headline a concert at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Hungarian musical legend Zoltán Kocsis, often compared to American conductor Leonard Bernstein, had started learning the piano at age 5. While he later soared to fame with concerts and music festivals, he later won accolades for his recordings of Béla Bartók and Debussy. He also later co-established the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
Legendary Hungarian-American violinist and composer Leopold Auer was born into a family of painters but chose to learn the violin instead. He initially played for the music-loving bling king of Hanover and later taught violin at Russia’s Saint Petersburg Conservatory. His students include Mischa Elman and Jascha Heifetz.
Born Rudolf “Rudi” Spitzer, Hungarian pianist Rezso Seress was raised amid poverty and survived a Nazi labor camp, to eventually begin his career as a circus trapeze artist. An injury later forced him to switch to music. He survived a jump from his apartment but later choked himself to death at the hospital.
Hungarian composer Emmerich Kalman is best remembered for his operettas and was a leading figure in the development of the Viennese operetta. He initially worked as a lawyer’s assistant and a music critic for Pesti Napló to fund his music studies. One of his best-known works remains The Gay Hussars.
Austrian composer Franz Schmidt was first trained in the piano by his mother. He later began his music career as a cellist at the Vienna Court Opera Orchestra. Best remembered for his oratorio The Book with Seven Seals, he taught and later became the director and then the rector at the Vienna Conservatory.
The son of a math professor and an amateur cellist father, Ernő Dohnányi was taught the basics of music by his father at age 8. While he later taught in Berlin and Budapest, he was banned in Hungary for a decade by the communists. He later taught in Argentina and then the US.
Hungarian-American conductor Antal Dorati was the son of a violinist father and a pianist mother. Joining the Liszt Academy at 14, he graduated to teach at the Budapest Royal Opera. Throughout his illustrious career, he was associated with many orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Bohemian cellist David Popper is best known for his Hungarian Rhapsody. One of the last cellists to perform without an endpin, he started his cello career at 18, and at 25, he was the Vienna Imperial Opera and Philharmonic’s youngest-ever principal. His High School of Cello Playing is a must for cello students.
Born to a Jewish cantor in Hungary, Karl Goldmark began his music lessons with the violin but later struggled to fund his music education. His best-known works include the concert overture Sakuntala and the opera The Queen of Sheba. A music critic, too, he also headed the Eintracht Choral Society.
Regarded as the founding father of Hungary’s grand opera, pianist and conductor Ferenc Erkel also composed Hungary’s national anthem. Born into a German-origin family of musicians, Erkel was initially trained in music by his father. He was later associated with the Academy of Music in Budapest as a director and piano teacher.
Born to a professor of violin, Jenö Hubay was initially trained by his father and made his concert debut at age 11. He later taught at the Brussels Conservatory and served as the director of the Budapest Conservatory. Apart from operas and orchestral pieces, he also created concertos.
Initially trained in the piano by his brother, Leó Weiner later studied music at Budapest’s Academy of Music. He grew up to teach music theory and chamber music. His best-known works include his composition for Mihály Vörösmarty’s Csongor és Tünde. He also penned works such as Analytical Harmony.
One of the greatest chamber music violinists of all time, Hungarian musician Sandor Vegh was born to folk-music-loving parents and began playing the violin at age 6. He later became a French citizen. After performing with the Hungarian String Quartet, he launched the Végh String Quartet. He also had his own orchestra.
Best remembered for his interpretations of Mozart, Hungarian pianist and conductor Geza Anda was associated with the Berlin Philharmonic but later moved to Switzerland and became a Swiss citizen. His music was known for its signature sentimental appeal and also consisted of Anda’s own cadenzas.
The first Hungarian musician to gain fame all over Europe, Bálint Bakfark was initially patronized by János Zápolya, or King John I. He also served the royal courts of France and Poland and was best known for his iconic lute pieces. After catching the plague in 1576, he burned all his unpublished works.
Hungarian pianist Rafael Joseffy started playing at age 8 and later even trained with legendary pianist Franz Liszt in Germany. He later taught at New York’s National Conservatory and gained fame for his 15-volume edition of Chopin’s works edited by him. He also introduced Johannes Brahms’s music to the US.
Hungarian cellist and composer Albert Siklós was a prodigy who had begun composing at age 6. He was later associated with the Fodor Conservatory and the Academy of Music. He mostly composed orchestra, chamber, and piano music, and was inspired by Brahms, Strauss, and Debussy.