Famed Hungarian pianist Géza Anda was a leading representative of the great Hungarian school of piano playing, alongside Annie Fischer, György Cziffra and György Sebök, until his untimely death. His irreproachable technique combined with an unusually intense and sincere style of playing earned Géza Anda a place among the world's top pianists.
Géza Anda's musical talents were obvious from a very early age. He entered the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, where he studied with Ernst von Dohnanyi. He also studied under Zoltan Kodaly. On graduating from his piano studies, he gave a masterful performance of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 conducted by Mengelberg. However his real triumph was a performance of César Franck's Symphonic Variations with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler in Berlin in 1941. Despite this brilliant start to his career in Germany, events prompted him to take refuge in Switzerland; in 1955, he was granted Swiss citizenship.
At the end of World War II, Géza Anda's career blossomed. From 1952 until his death in 1976, he performed regularly every year at the Salzburg festival. This brilliant pianist started out playing a predominantly Romantic, virtuoso repertoire of Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt, Schubert, Chopin and Brahms.
After coming to the notice of Clara Haskil, in 1956 he recorded Bach's Concerto for Two Keyboards BWV 1061 and Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos K 365 with her. From this point on, Géza Anda was considered Clara Haskil's spiritual heir. He decided to devote himself to Mozart and, between 1961 and 1970, became the first pianist to record Mozart's complete piano concertos, conducting the Camerata Academica of the Salzburg Mozarteum himself from the piano. For more than half of these concertos, Géza Anda wrote his own cadenzas. His modern interpretation of these works - measured, lively, bright but devoid of unnecessary showiness - paved the way for other pianists a few years later, namely Daniel Barenboim and Murray Perahia.
In a return to his Hungarian roots, Géza Anda recorded Bartok's three Piano Concertos with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by fellow Hungarian Ferenc Fricsay. Between the pianist's perfect touch and the conductor's accurate rendering of the music's climate, these recordings, which won a Grand Prix du Disque at the time, remain a benchmark.
Alongside his career as an international soloist, Géza Anda taught at the Lucerne conservatoire between 1959 and 1968, and took over from Edwin Fischer in 1960 as director of the piano masterclasses in Lucerne, then in Zurich from 1969.
Two years after his death, his second wife, Hortense Anda-Bührle, set up the Géza Anda Foundation, which instituted the Concours Géza-Anda international piano competition. The competition is held every three years in Zurich. The winner of the inaugural competition was French pianist Georges Pludermacher in 1979.
Six landmark dates in the life of Géza Anda:
• 1941: first major success with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler
• 1952: first appearance at the Salzburg festival
• 1956: recorded the Double Piano Concertos by JS Bach (BMW 1061) and by Mozart (K 365) with the pianist Clara Haskil
• 1959: began teaching piano at the Lucerne conservatoire
• 1969: began teaching piano in Zurich
• 1978: the Géza Anda Foundation was set up in Zurich
Biography compiled from the Music Library, June 2017