Thrilling Hungarian pianist Zoltan Kocsis dies aged 64

This file photo taken on Nov 5, 2009 shows Hungarian pianist, conductor composer and director of the 'Hungarian Philharmonic' orchestra Zoltan Kocsis posing beside his piano in Budapest.
This file photo taken on Nov 5, 2009 shows Hungarian pianist, conductor composer and director of the 'Hungarian Philharmonic' orchestra Zoltan Kocsis posing beside his piano in Budapest. PHOTO: AFP

BUDAPEST (AFP) - Virtuoso Hungarian pianist and conductor Zoltan Kocsis, celebrated for his thrilling and versatile technique, died on Sunday (Nov 6) at the age of 64, his orchestra the National Philharmonic said.

"The National Philharmonic Orchestra informs with deep sadness that Zoltan Kocsis after a long illness borne with dignity died this afternoon," the orchestra said in a statement quoted by the MTI news agency.

Kocsis, musical director of the National Philharmonic since 1997, underwent heart surgery in 2012.

Last month he cancelled upcoming concerts on the advice of doctors, according to the National Philharmonic Orchestra.

"One of the best pianists and conductors has left us," Zoltan Balog, Minister for Human Resources in Prime Minister Viktor Orban's cabinet, wrote on his Facebook page.

Born in Budapest in 1952, Kocsis began performing abroad after winning the prestigious Hungarian Radio Beethoven Competition at the age of 18.

He performed extensively with the Berlin Philharmonic, as well as several other leading world orchestras.

Kocsis also co-founded the renowned Budapest Festival Orchestra with the acclaimed conductor Ivan Fischer in 1983.