KÁLMÁN BERKES (b 1952 )
Kálmán Berkes was born in 1952 in Budapest into a musical family, the son of a leading clarinettist and teacher. He started studying music at the age of four, first playing the piano, and then the violin, opting for the clarinet when he was 14. After attending the Béla Bartók Music High School in 1970 under Vécsei István, he graduated from the Ferenc Liszt Music Academy in 1978, having studied with Béla Kovács, György Kurtág, András Mihály, Albert Simon and Frigyes Sándor. He completed his studies as a conductor under János Ferencsik and Giuseppe Patanè.
His active professional career started in 1968, at the age of 16, when he first played Bartók’s Contrasts, for clarinet, violin and piano, one of the most complicated works in the clarinet repertoire. His partners were Dezső Ránki, later replaced by Zoltán Kocsis, and Miklós Szenthelyi. First recorded by Hungaroton, it was recorded again in 1994 by Naxos with György Pauk and Jenő Jandó, winning a golden GRAMMY® medal in 1995. In 1972 he won the silver medal of an International contest in Genoa, in 1974 (Belgrade) and in 1975 (Munich) he was a winner of chamber music competitions.
He became a scholarship-winner clarinet artist of the Hungarian Opera House Orchestra from 1972, and a year later became principal clarinettist of the Opera House and of the Philharmonic Society of Budapest. Between 1973 and 1983 he was a member of the Chamber Orchestra of Budapest and participated in the premieres of several contemporary Hungarian works.
In 1982 he established the Woodwind Orchestra of Budapest, and was its artistic director until 2002. In 1983 he was a founding member and principal clarinettist of the Festival Orchestra of Budapest. He made his debut as a conductor in 1987 in Caracas and was the conductor of the Hungarian Virtuoso Chamber Orchestra from 1988 to 1991. Between 2004 and 2006 he was a frequent guest conductor of the National Philharmonic Orchestra. He has gone on to appear as a soloist, a chamber musician, and a conductor in 80 countries throughout the world, including conducting and teaching in Japan from 1992.
As recognition for his professional work, he was awarded the Liszt Prize in 1986, the centenary of Liszt’s death. He has had various works written for him by contemporary Hungarian composers and since 2009 has been artistic director of the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra. As a result of his professional artistic activities, the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra was awarded the Bartók-Pásztory Award in 2013. He has received many national awards and distinctions such as the ‘Meritorius Artist of Hungary’ Award and the Liszt Prize. Berkes has recorded for Hungaroton, Decca, Teldec, Harmonia Mundi, EMI and Naxos.