Debrecen, 4 September 1922 – 22 July 2013
Kornél Zempléni's mother was a violin teacher but musicians can be found in the broader family, as well. He started his piano studies in the school of music in Debrecen with Lajos Galánffy, a disciple of Irén Senn, who fostered his students' sensitivity for details. Later Emil Szabó trained him in music theory and composition. Tamás Vásáry was a pupil of the famous teacher from Debrecen, as well. Zempléni was admitted to the Academy of Music where he was a student of Béla Böszörményi-Nagy. He pursued composition studies with Albert Siklós and -after his early death- with Rezső Kókai. He won second prize at the Liszt competition in 1943. In autumn of 1943 Ernő Dohnányi admitted him to his master school (at the same time as Béla Siki, György Szolcsányi) but this lasted only until the day of German occupation, March 19, 1944. However, the short period was a determinative experience for Kornél Zempléni, who regards the lessons of Dohnányi - given with a rather illustrative than explanatory method- as a present.
He has been teaching from the first day of 1947, at the Nemzeti Zenede [Music Secondary School] then at the Bartók Conservatory.
He gained outstanding success at two important competitions of the post-war term: the Bartók competition in 1948 and the WFDY competition in 1949, by which not only his domestic concert career begun but he also performed in the European countries available at that time. He was on tour as a member of a musical delegate in China in 1955 and appeared in West European countries with János Ferencsik and György Lehel among others. A critic wrote about his recital at the Academy of Music: ‘We could report only by a voice of an exceptional and honest amazement on Kornél Zempléni's piano playing. Let us talk first in fact about the piano playing itself, about that particularly nice, natural, and healthy, beautifully clanging sound which characterizes the playing of the artist. This wonderful tone [...] and the safe, well founded technical base allows free unfolding of the rich lyre - deepening as his years are passing- of the exceptionally intelligent, tasty and deeply musical artist. Every notes from the first to the last were at their right place at his entirely great recital; the way as they were needed to be, all pervaded by emotional content, honest and suggestive poetry...'
Kornél Zempléni became professor at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music in 1964. He was chair of piano division in 1982/1983. He taught in Japan as a guest professor at Osaka University of Arts between 1984 and 1986, and then returned to the Liszt Academy of Music. ‘[...] my duty as a teacher is to train the student for the appropriate development of process – suitable to his habitude. What does this process involve? First of all cognition and recognition [...] cognition is general, recognition refers to detailed analysis of content…' – declared Zempléni in his teaching ‘ars poetica'.