István Kertész belonged to the generation of the great post-war conductors, whose career was prematurely interrupted at age 43.
István Kertész studied violin, piano and composition at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music with Zoltán Kodály and Leo Weiner in Budapest, his hometown. He studied orchestra conducting with Laszlo Somogyi. He started working as a conductor for the Raab Orchestra (named Györ today) in the 1950s and then was nominated at the Budapest Opera. In 1956, he left his country during the Hungarian Uprising and moved to West Germany. In 1958, he graduated with distinction under Fernando Previtali at Rome's Santa Cecilia Academy. During the 1960s, he conducted orchestras in the UK, the United States, Rome, Milan, Berlin, Frankfurt. In France, he conducted the Orchestre national de la RTF (French Radio and Television National Orchestra - today Orchestre National de Radio France) in 1963 during the Montreux Festival. He was appointed General Music Director of the Cologne Opera one year later, a position he would go on to hold until his death. From 1965 to 1968, he was the first conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, achieving great success at Covent Garden, and in 1965 he went on a 24 concerts' tour over the course of one month. His international reputation then was consolidated. Of this collaboration remained a recording of Dvořák's symphonies.
His repertoire included over 450 works (operas and symphonic works) of all repertoires. He died prematurely at the age of 43, drowned after being swept off by a wave, as he was getting ready for series of concerts with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Israel.
6 landmark dates in the life of István Kertész:
1955: Led the Budapest Opera
1956: Left Hungary and moved to Germany
1958: Worked with Fernando Previtali at the National Academy of St Cecilia
1963: Conducted the Orchestre national de France (Radio France) on September 17 during the Montreux Festival
1964: General Music Director of the Cologne Opera
1965: World tour with the London Symphony Orchestra
Biography from Radio France’s document database, May 2014