Violinist Barnabás Kelemen has conquered the most famous concert halls in the world with his virtuoso technique and dynamic, passionate playing style. Versatile and open-minded, he is an outstanding soloist and chamber musician, as well as an artistic director of festivals and a teacher at renowned institutions. In recent years he has also worked as a conductor.
Due to his exceptional sense of style 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 and he performs Early Baroque, Classical, and Romantic works with just as much authenticity as twentieth-century pieces. He is additionally a devoted advocate of contemporary music, with world or Hungarian premieres of works by Kurtág, Ligeti, Schnittke, Gubajdulina, Steve Reich, and Ryan Wigglesworth to his name.
He regularly performs at the world’s most prominent concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, the Royal Festival Hall, the Palais de Beaux Arts, Suntory Hall, and the Berliner Philharmonie. He is a frequent guest of such eminent ensembles as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Estonian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and Hannover’s NDR Radiophilharmonie, 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, Zoltán Kocsis, Péter Eötvös, and Iván Fischer. He is also an avid conductor himself – in recent seasons he has directed the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Israeli Chamber Ensemble, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra, and the symphonic orchestras of the Hungarian cities of Szombathely, Győr, and Pécs. On top of all this, he is a sensitive and experienced chamber musician who has played with artists of the calibre of Dezső Ránki, Steven Isserlis, Miklós Perényi, Alina Ibragimova, Vilde Frang, José Gallardo, and Andreas Ottensamer.
It was Barnabás Kelemen who recorded all of Bartók’s works for violin in the series of albums produced under the aegis of Zoltán Kocsis, and many received international acclaim, especially his CD comprised of Sonatas for Violin and Piano Nos 1 and 2 (featuring Kocsis) and Sonata for Solo Violin, which won the 2013 Gramophone Award. In 2001, his album of Liszt’s complete works for violin and piano with Gergely Bogányi 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 20 albums – 17 solo and three with his quartet – as well as a double DVD of live performances of Mozart’s complete violin concertos.
Barnabás Kelemen has achieved outstanding results in prestigious contests, including first prizes at both the 1999 International Mozart Violin Competition in Salzburg and the 2002 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, and third prize at Brussels’ 2001 Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition. His artistry has been recognized with the highest professional and state honours: he has been awarded Liszt and Kossuth Prizes and Prima and Gramophone Awards, and is the holder of the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.
Barnabás 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 teachers, Isaac Stern, Ferenc Rados, and Zoltán Kocsis. He studied conducting from two giants of the Finnish tradition, Leif Segerstam and Jorma Panula. He is currently a professor at two illustrious institutions: Budapest’s Liszt Academy and the University of Cologne.
Together with Katalin Kokas, he is the founder and artistic director of the Festival Academy Budapest Chamber Music Festival, which regularly features artists such as Vilde Frang, Maxim Rysanov, Shlomo Mintz, and Joshua Bell. From 2010 to 2018 he was the leader of the Kelemen Quartet, which enjoyed a stellar international career.
Barnabás Kelemen performs on the “ex-Dénes Kovács” Guarneri del Gesú violin of 1742, generously loaned to him by the Hungarian State.