Tibor Erkel – obituary

03. February 2017

The pianist, musical director, Liszt Academy department head, Tibor Erkel passed away at age of 83, on Saturday 28 January, 2017. His achievements were also recognised with the Knight of Cross from the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic.


Tibor Erkel was born in Csökmő, east of Hungary, in January, 1934. As a descendant of the composer, Ferenc Erkel, his studies were greatly determined by the musical traditions of the family. After attending the Piarist Grammar School in Debrecen, he continued his education at the Erkel Ferenc Music Boarding School (presently, Béla Bartók Student Residence). Later he was admitted to study piano at the Liszt Academy under the tutelage of Tibor Wehner, but also other musical giants shaped his career, such as Margit Höchtl or Kornél Zempléni.

Besides piano recitals, his working life began as a piano and chamber music instructor at the Conservatoire of Szeged in 1958. From 1964, for 50 years, he was member of the academic staff at the Liszt Academy, from 1969 onwards, as a professor and head of department. Many of his students later became internationally acclaimed conductors, wind- or other instrumentalists.

Acting upon the invitation of the internationally recognised Bartók-researcher Ernő Lendvai, from 1963 he commenced work at the Hungarian Radio, where he established a career as a music director, then from 1992 as a head of department. He collaborated with numerous Hungarian and international celebrities in the release of several award-winning records and radio recordings. He was always proud of having had a significant share in the introduction of the quadraphonic technology at the Hungarian Radio, which is a predecessor of the modern Dolby Surround systems.  His recordings applying the quadraphonic sound brought popularity to Hungarian radio recording even in western Europe in the 1970s and 80s. 

From 1979 until 1983, he was the Head of Department of Theatre, Music and Dance at the Ministry of Culture, then from 1992 for two years, he was in a similar position at the Ministry of Culture and Public Education.  From 1996, he commenced a political career within the framework of MIÉP (Hungarian Justice and Life Party), primarily as a cultural expert. Between 1998 and 2002, he was active as Member of Parliament and then as member of the General Assembly of Budapest from 2002 until 2006. During his lifetime, he enjoyed the friendship of numerous well-known artists, politicians and public personalities. His accomplishments were recognised with the Erkel Prize in 1986, and in 2012, with the Knight of Cross from the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic. In the very same year, for his achievements he was nominated honorary citizen in his beloved Budapest district, Újpest. Furthermore, he was a founding member, vice-president and then honorary life vice-president of the Ferenc Erkel Society.

He leaves wife, Dr Márta Bognár, paediatrician, son László Erkel Kentaur, artist of merit as well as siblings, grandchildren and friends.

The death of Tibor Erkel is the loss of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music and so the institution will provide funeral honours.


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