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.
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.
Tommy Ramone was a Hungarian-American record producer, musician, and songwriter. For four years, he served as the drummer for the punk rock band the Ramones. The band was often cited as the first true punk rock group and was highly influential. Even though he left the group in the late 1970s, he maintained good relations with his former bandmates.
Georg Solti was an operatic and orchestral conductor. He is best remembered for his association with opera companies in London, Frankfurt, and Munich. He also worked with the popular Chicago Symphony Orchestra where he served as a music director for a long time. Solti became the subject of a 1987 biographical TV documentary titled This Is Your Life.
Born to Holocaust survivors, Hungarian-born pianist Andras Schiff began learning the piano at age 5. He is now best known for his interpretations of legends such as of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. His numerous awards include a Grammy. He was also knighted for his achievements.
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.
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.
Hungarian-French virtuoso pianist Gyorgy Cziffra was born into a poor family of gypsy musicians and lost his father and sister to starvation. His piano skills got him a job at a circuses and nightclubs. He eventually trained at the Franz Liszt Academy. Following his son’s death in a fire, he stopped performing.
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.
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.
11 George Szell
Considered one of the best conductors of the 20th century, Hungarian-born George Szell is best remembered for his stint as the director of the Cleveland Orchestra in the US. Starting as a pianist, he had started touring at age 11. He began conducting at age 16, with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
12 Franz Lehár
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.
13 Miklós Rózsa
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.
14 Carl Flesch
Károly Flesch, better known as Carl Flesch, was initially part of the Belgian school of violinists as a student of Martin Marsick. At Bucharest, he was patronized by the Romanian queen. He later taught at Amsterdam, Berlin, the US, and Switzerland. Though arrested by the Nazis, he was released later.
15 Livia Zita
Apart from being a rock and heavy metal singer, who has also worked with the Danish band King Diamond, Livia Zita is also a talented voiceover artist who specializes in accented English for commercials. She has also lent her voice to video games and animation films.
16 Peter Bence
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.
Born in Hungary, Eugene Ormandy was inspired by his amateur violinist father to take up violin lessons as a child. By age 17, he was himself a professor of violin. After moving to the US, he would initially compose for silent films. He later received 2 Grammy Awards and was also knighted.
18 Julius Fučík
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.
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.
20 Rezso Seress
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.
The daughter of theater personality Stephan Balint, Hungarian-born violinist and performer Eszter Balint grew up with her father’s Squat Theatre troupe in New York. Apart from her critically acclaimed albums, such as Flicker, she is also known for her appearances in films and series such as Shadows and Fog and Louie.
Renowned Hungarian thereminist and violinist Katica Illényi was born into a musical family and is now best known to international listeners for her video Once Upon a Time in the Wild West, which went viral on social media. Apart from classical music, she has also experimented with jazz and folk music.
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-born singer and drummer Leslie Mandoki is best known for as a vocalist for the German pop band Dschinghis Khan. He later released his solo work, under the alias Man Doki. He is known to fuse rock and jazz and has also worked as a producer for artists such as Phil Collins.
26 Leopold Auer
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.
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.
29 Ivan Fischer
Apart from establishing the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Hungarian composer and conductor Iván Fischer also served as its music director. His work has taken him to places such as the US, the Netherlands, and Germany. He has also arranged innovative events, such as autism-friendly concerts and cocoa concerts for kids.
Born to a Polish father and a Russian mother, both of whom loved music, Hungarian-American musician Janos Starker began playing the cello at age 5 and began performing at events by 6. The Franz Liszt Academy alumnus grew up to teach at the Indiana University School of Music.
32 Antal Dorati
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.
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.
Born into a family of professional musicians, violinist Joseph Szigeti was trained by his father and his uncle and started performing at public events by age 10. Known widely as The Scholarly Virtuoso for his thoughtful compositions, he also taught at the Geneva Conservatory. He spent his later years in Switzerland.
Besides being an author and a songwriter, Zsuzsanna Emese Mokcsay, a.k.a. Zsuzsanna Budapest, is also known for her Goddess-oriented witchcraft, Dianic Wicca, which she established in LA. She also founded the first women-only witches’ coven. She was initially married, and had 2 sons, but divorced after realizing she was a lesbian.
36 David Popper
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.
Though born in Hungary, pianist Stephen Heller made his career in France. Apart from being a teacher and a composer, he also wrote quite a lot of piano music. Initially patronized by the Fugger family of Augsburg, in his later life, he survived on a charitable subscription arranged by Robert Browning and others.
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.
39 Agi Jambor
Born to an affluent Hungarian businessman and piano teacher, Agi Jambor was a piano prodigy. Married to physicist and pianist Imre Patai, she later joined the Resistance against the Nazis, decked up as a sex worker under the alias Maryushka. After moving to the US, she taught at the Bryn Mawr College.
40 Ferenc Erkel
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.
Over his illustrious career of almost 2 decades, Hungarian conductor Ferenc Fricsay became one of the greatest conductors of his time. After studying scores of instruments such as the piano, violin, and clarinet, he had started conducting at age 15. Mozart’s The Magic Flute remains his best-known recording.
42 Geza Anda
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.
Hungarian pianist Gyorgy Sandor initially gained fame as a concert pianist and later became an American citizen, even serving the US Army Signal Corps. Apart from being a student of composer Béla Bartók, he was one of the few in his inner circle. He also at Juilliard and the University of Michigan.
Hungarian pianist Annie Fischer was a prodigy who made her concert debut at age 10. The Franz Liszt Academy alumnus was forced to flee to Sweden due to the anti-Semitism crisis in Hungary, which was then under Nazi control. Her post-war career saw her teaching at Budapest’s Academy of Music.
One of the greatest 19th-century conductors, Arthur Nikisch was born to a Hungarian father and a Czech mother. Excelling as a student at the Vienna Conservatory, he later joined the Vienna Philharmonic. He was later associated with top-notch orchestras in Berlin, Budapest, and Boston. He also conducted the Ring Cycle operas.
Brigitta Kocsis, or Brigitta Bulgari, was once a top model for the Hungarian versions of Playboy and Penthouse. While she initially aspired to be a lawyer, destiny made her a porn actor. She was once arrested for running naked on the field during a soccer match. She is now a popular DJ.
48 Jenö Hubay
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.
49 Niki Belucci
Initially a promising and award-winning gymnast from Budapest, Niki Belucci had to end her sports career due to an injury at 15. While working at a lingerie store, she was scouted by an adult industry agent. After working as a porn actor, she eventually became one of the most successful DJs of Hungary.
Born in Budapest, pianist Isidor Philipp was brought to Paris as a toddler. He excelled as a student of French composer and pianist Georges Mathias at the Paris Conservatoire before making his London debut. He later taught at the Conservatoire and also spent much of his later career in New York.