The Quartet was founded in 1966 by four students of the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest as a continuation of the great Hungarian string quartet tradition. In 1968 the ensemble – called the “Sebestyén Quartet,” at the time (named after the new Quartet’s first violinist) - won the first prize at the International Leo Weiner String Quartet Competition in Budapest.
By 1971, the Quartet had established an international reputation, and in that year changed its name to the “Kodály Quartet” in honour of the outstanding twentieth-century Hungarian composer.
The Quartet has set as its main objective the authentic interpretation of the works of Zoltán Kodály, and gives tremendous importance to the values and traditions that Kodály conceived as essential in musical culture. It is not only Kodály’s works that are frequently performed by the Kodály String Quartet: all major Hungarian composers (Bartók, Dohnányi, Kurtág, Ligeti,) , aswell as most classical composers are represented in its repertoire.The Quartet has also performed on the world premiers of contemporary Hungarian pieces in the last years, including several works dedicated to them – the latest being Petrovics’s 3rd String Quartet at the 2009 Budapest Spring Festival.
Members of the Kodály Quartet have previously studied with prestigious artists, including the first violinist of the Hungarian String Quartet, Zoltan Szekely.The fruitful cooperation with Szekely has also influenced the Kodaly Quartet’s artistic goals and high standards. This is a further sign that one of the motivations of Kodály String Quartet is to keep the highest values of musical tradition and standards of famous Hungarian quartets of the 20th Century.
The Kodály String Quartet has regularly performed in America: in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America; in nearly all European countries; and throughout the Far East, including China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan. They have given concerts in Australia and New Zealand several times.
They have performed with many great musicians: Bruno Canino, Milan Turkovic, Miklós Perényi, Zoltán Kocsis, Michel Portal, Dimitry Ashkenazy, Michel Béroff, Jeremy Menuhin, Tamás Vásáry, Jenő Jandó and Dimitris Sgouros.
The Quartet has participated in many festivals around the world. To name only the most important venues and festivals: Bath, Aldborough, Oaxaca, Estoril, Prague, Bagdad, Guanajuato, Ljubljana, Istanbul, Athens, at the Korsholm Music Festival in Sweden, the Musica Mundi Festival in Belgium, the Carinthia Summer Festival and the Bruckner Festival in Austria, the Luberon Festival in Provence, the George Enescu Festival in Bucharest, and the Budapest Spring Festival.
The Kodály String Quartet has recorded some 60 CDs. Among these are the entire string quartet cycles by Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert. A discography of these recordings can be found at www.kodalyquartet.com.
In 1994 the English magazine CD Classics awarded the first prize in the Chamber Music category to the Kodály String Quartet for its recordings of Haydn op.64. In 2007, the BBC nominated its recording of Mendelssohn and Bruch octets for the “Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year” Award. In 1990 the Hungarian government awarded the Outstanding Artist Prize to the Kodály String Quartet, and in 1996 it received the Bartók-Pásztory Prize.