Born in Budapest, he began his musical studies at the age of five and continued them at the Béla Bartók Conservatory in 1963, studying piano and composition. In 1968 he was admitted to the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, where he was a pupil of Pál Kadosa, Ferenc Rados and György Kurtág, graduating in 1973. He won the Hungarian Radio Beethoven Competition in 1970, and made his first concert tour of the United States in the following year. He received the Liszt Prize in 1973, and the Kossuth Prize in 1978.
Considered as a great pianist, Kocsis performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Philharmonia of London, and the Vienna Philharmonic. Kocsis recorded the complete solo piano works and works with piano and orchestra of Béla Bartók. In 1990, his recording of Debussy's Images won "The Gramophone" Instrumental Award for that year. He won another in 2013 in the chamber category with Bartók works.
American critic Harold C. Schonberg praised Kocsis' extraordinary technique and fine piano tone. According to Grove Music Online, he had "an impressive technique, and his forthright, strongly rhythmic playing is nevertheless deeply felt and never mechanical. Kocsis has a natural affinity for Bach, but is also a fine exponent of contemporary music and has given the first performances of works by Kurtág."
- Hungaroton LP SLPX11711 Liner Notes.
- In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
- 88 notes pour piano solo, Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Neva Ed., 2015, p. 52. ISBN 978 2 3505 5192 0
- Zoltán Kocsis plays Bartók, Philips 8 CD set 475 6720.
- Now issued as Philips CD 475 210-2.
- Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists from Mozart to the Present, Second Edition, Simon & Schuster, 1987
- "Meghalt Kocsis Zoltán, a Nemzeti Filharmonikusok vezetője".
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- Zoltán Kocsis biography
- Listing and reviews of Kocsis recordings
- TV and Video Productions with Zoltán Kocsis - Directed by János Darvas
- Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra website
- Budapest Festival Orchestra website
- Profile, opus3artists.com
- Zoltán Kocsis biodata, cosmopolis.ch
- The Guardian obituary
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