György Kurtág was born in Logoj, Romania, in 1926. After first composition lessons with Max Eisikovits, he writes his first composition „piano suite“ in 1942. In 1946 Kurtág studies at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music composition with Sándor Veress and Ferenc Farkas, piano with Pál Kadosa and chamber music with Leó Weiner. In 1948 he becomes Hungarian citizen. In 1957 Kurtág continues his postgraduate studies in Paris with Marianne Stein and attends courses of Darius Milhaud, Olivier Messiaen and Max Deutsch.
1960-1968 he works as répétiteur of soloists with the Hungarian National Philharmonia and is professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. First he teaches piano, then chamber music. In 1971 Kurtág has a one-year stay in West-Berlin as grantee of the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD).
In the aftermath he was awarded with several prizes such as the Kossuth Prize by the Hungarian state (1973), the title Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French state (1985), the "Österreichische Staatspreis für Europäische Komponisten" (Austrian State Award for European Composers), the Kossuth Prize for His Life Work by the Hungarian state (1996), the "Österreichisches Ehrenzeichen" by the Austrian Republic and the great music prize of the Ernst von Siemens Stiftung (1998).
In 1987 he becomes a member of the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste Munich, and member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin. In 1993 he is invited to stay at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin as composer in residence with the Berliner Philharmoniker for two years. In 1995 he stays for one year in Vienna as composer in residence and to teach master classes at the Wiener Konzerthaus. In 1996 he becomes Honorary professor at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, and is invited by various orchestras, ensembles and foundations to stay for two years in the Netherlands.