About the Artist
Barnabás Kelemen has established himself as one of the leading and most versatile artist of his generation.
An artist of “innate musicality” with a technical execution that belongs “only to the greatest” (The Guardian)
“…a penchant for fiery display and a lyricism suited to the stage, Barnabás Kelemen Hungarian soloist met the composer’s demands unflappably, stirring a rousing ovation” as the soloist of the American Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium. (New York Times)
Conquering the most famous concert halls in the world with his dynamic and passionate performances and his open-minded individual playing he is an outstanding soloist chamber musician and conductor. As well he has been artistic director of festivals and professor at renowned institutions. In recent years he has been invited as jury member at world’s leading violin and chamber music competitions.
Due to his exceptional style sensitivity and his comprehensive technical proficiency, Barnabás Kelemen navigates with confidence through the entire catalogue of music written for violin. His repertoire is thus extremely diverse from solo, concerto, chamber music to string quartet works and he performs with incredible authenticity from early baroque, through classical, and romantic to contemporary music. He gave Hungarian premieres of works by Sofia Gubajdulina, György Ligeti, Alfred Schnittke, Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt or Lera Auerbach and world premiers of works by Helena Winkelman, Tímea Dragony, György Kurtág or Ryan Wigglesworth.
He regularly performs at the most prominent concert venues, including the Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, the Royal Festival Hall, the Palais de Beaux Arts, the Suntory Hall, the Musikverein or the Berlin Philharmony. He is a frequent guest of such eminent ensembles as the BBC Symphony, the London Philharmonic- and Symphony orchestras, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Berlin Radio Symphony, Hannover’s NDR Radiophilharmonie, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Estonian or the Helsinki Philharmonic to name but a few.
Barnabás Kelemen has worked with conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Sir Neville Marriner, Vladimir Jurowski, Marek Janowski, Michael Stern, Krzysztof Urbanski, Péter Eötvös, Iván Fischer and Gábor Takács-Nagy and has built a long-therm and fruitful collaboration with late Zoltán Kocsis and renowned Mexican conductor Alondra della Parra performing with her through Australia to Hungary. Barnabás Kelemen is also an avid conductor himself – in recent seasons he has lead the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic with recording Helena Winkelman’s Cello Concerto, the Chamber Orchestra of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Dohnányi Symphony, the Israel Chamber Orchestra or the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra etc.
On top of all Barnabás Kelemen is a passionate chamber musician who has been playing regularly together with artists like Zoltán Kocsis, Vilde Frang, Joshua Bell, Alina Ibragimova, Steven Isserlis, Máté Szűcs, Khatia Buniatishvili, Ferenc Rados, Menahem Pressler, Nicolas Altstaedt, José Gallardo or Andreas Ottensamer at chamber music festivals such as: Edinburgh, Jerusalem, Prussia Cove, Ittingen, Salzburg, Bürgenstock, Delft, Lockenhaus, Mondsee, Mantova, Kuhmo etc.
It was him who recorded all of Bartók’s works for violin in the Bartók New Series under the aegis of Zoltán Kocsis, and many received international acclaim, especially his CD comprised of the complete sonatas for violin which won the prestigious Gramophone Award in 2013. In 2001, his album of Liszt’s complete works for violin and piano was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque by the International Liszt Society, while in 2003, Diapason magazine paid tribute to Kelemen and Tamás Vásáry’s recording of Brahms’ Sonatas for Violin and Piano with its influential Diapason d’Or. So far, he has released a total of 23 albums – 19 solo/chamber music and three with his quartet – as well as a double DVD of live performances of Mozart’s complete violin concertos. His album – released in 2019 under the care of Alpha Records – featuring Béla Bartók’s Piano Quintet won it’s category at the BBC Music Magazine Awards and the Gramophone Award in 2020.
A devoted pedagogue since 2003 he is active as a violin and chamber music teacher giving masterclasses world-wide. Since 2003 he had been professor of violin later chamber music at the Ferenc Liszt Music Academy in Budapest and has been invited by Prof. Mimi Zweig as a regular guest professor at the Indiana University in Bloomington/USA and by Alexander Lonquich to the Fiesole University in Florence. From 2014 till 2022 he was a violin professor at the Cologne University in Germany as a successor of Zakhar Bronn and Viktor Tretyakov. He has been giving masterclasses at renowned institutions like Salzburg Mozarteum, Brussels Chapelle Rheine Elizabeth and at universities of Tokyo, Paris, Glasgow, Dallas, Toronto, Helsinki, Antwerpen, Brussels, Florence etc.
Barnabás Kelemen has been invited as jury member to prestigious international violin and chamber music/string quartet competitions like: Singapore, Wieniawski and Szymanowksi (Poland), Szigeti (Hungary), Kloster Schöntaal (Germany), Bartók (Hungary), or Banff (Canada). He himself established two international violin competitions one in 2017 for violinists under age 21 during the Festival Academy Budapest named after Ilona Fehér with jury president Shlomo Mintz or Hagai Shaham and a Central-European violin competition since 2020 in Miskolc named after Jenő Hubay with jury president Boris Kuschnir.
Together with Katalin Kokas, he is the founder and artistic director of the Festival Academy Budapest which regularly features artists such as Joshua Bell, Vilde Frang, Maxim Rysanov, Patricia Kopatchinskaya, Andreas Ottensamer, Alina Ibragimova, Shlomo Mintz, Ferenc Rados, Reto Bieri or Gidon Kremer and hosts 50-60 university students from all over the world for masterclasses and to work and perform with the festival artists. They have commissioned new works from such composers like Vienna UMDK dekanin Judit Varga, Maté Balogh or Tímea Dragony.
In 2009 Barnabás Kelemen established the Kelemen Quartet with his wife Katalin Kokas. In their first years they have won the grand prizes of three of the greatest string quartet competitions, the Premio Paolo Borciani in Reggio Emilia, the Melbourne and the Beijing competitions and has kept the attention of the international quartet life with appearances at the NY Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmony, the Salzburg Mozarteum, the Vienna Musikverein, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Teatro Fenice of Venice or at their regular returns to the London Wigmore Hall since 2011. With their new members violinist Jonian Ilias Kadesha and cellist Vashti Mimosa Hunter the quartet recently appeared with their giant project of playing all Bartók string quartets at festivals like Mantova, Lockenhaus, Eisenstadt, Banff or Budapest Bartók Art Weeks.
Kelemen has achieved outstanding results at worlds greatest contests, including first prizes at both the 1999 Salzburg International Mozart Violin Competition and the 2002 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, the third prize at Brussels’ 2001 Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition. His artistry has been recognized with the highest professional and state honors: he has been awarded Liszt, Bartók-Pásztory, Príma and Kossuth Prizes, the London-based Gramophone Award and is the holder of the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.
Kelemen began studying the violin under Valéria Baranyai. As a student of Eszter Perényi, he graduated from the Liszt Academy of Music in 2001. He was enormously influenced by his later masters as well, Isaac Stern (1994-2001), Ferenc Rados (1993-), György Kurtág (1997-), Zoltán Kocsis (1998-2016) and by the several recordings and movie films of his legendary gypsy grandfather from the 1930’s the ‘prímás’ violinist Pali Pertis. He has to thank most to his mother the great harpsichordist Zsuzsa Pertis who was a student of prof. Isolde Algrim at Vienna Hochschule for becoming such an open minded artist. He studied 5 years of conducting privately from two idols of the Finnish school, Leif Segerstam and Jorma Panula.
He is currently a half time professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest where he coaches chamber music groups at regular masterclasses. He performs on the “ex-Dénes Kovács” Guarneri del Gesú violin of 1742, generously loaned to him by the Hungarian State and on a period baroque violin made by Januarius Gagliano in 1771.