Biography - Dóra Kokas

cello

Dóra Kokas was born into a family of musicians, where she grew up surrounded by a love of music. She entered her first cello competition at the age of seven, and since then her achievements as a soloist have included 1st prize at the Hamburg Debut International Cello Competition 2017, 2nd prize in the International Johannes Brahms Competition 2016, and two special prizes at the 2014 Pablo Casals International Cello Competition. “Every competition is another milestone for me. I relish the period of intensive preparation for the competitions, when every brain cell is focused on doing the best I can.”

Dóra Kokas graduated in 2016 from the Liszt Academy of Music, where Miklós Perényi was her mentor. “He’s an incredibly inspiring personality; there's no-one else like him in the world. I learned so much from him about respect for music and how to approach a work; but he also sets and example with his general attitude to life.” Dóra is currently studying at the Razumovsky Academy in London, under the tutelage of Oleg Kogan. “He follows the Russian tradition, and pays a lot of attention to technique.”

Despite her young age, Dóra Kokas is a highly experienced chamber musician, and started her string quartet playing at seventeen as the cellist in the Kelemen Quartet. This ensemble took first prize in such prestigious events as the Premio Paolo Borciani international string quartet competition, one of the largest of its kind in the world, or the Beijing International String Quartet Competition. Although she decided in 2015 to leave the Kelemen Quartet for a while to concentrate on her solo career, chamber music retains an important role in her life. “Chamber music is the absolute pinnacle of music for me; it’s where I feel truly at home.” It was with the quartet that she had one of her most memorable experiences of ensemble playing, when at the invitation of Zoltán Kocsis they led the National Philharmonic Orchestra in pieces such as Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra and Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. Kocsis also had a close relationship with the quartet as a mentor. “We often played Bartók’s string quartets for him; it was a defining experience for me, as he sat with us going through the scores and talking about Bartók’s music.”

As a chamber musician Dóra Kokas regularly plays together with Joshua Bell, Pekka Kuusisto, Nicholas Altstaedt, Maxim Rysanov, Vilde Frang, José Gallardo or Péter Frankl to name just a few. “When playing with really good chamber musicians I can immediately sense that our breathing is in synch, and we all have a similar respect for the works that we’re playing.” Her concert repertoire is exceptionally diverse. She couldn’t imagine life without Bach, but also has at least as much affinity with the music of Schubert, and of course, Bartók.

She’s played on the stage of the Hamburg Laeiszhalle, Wigmore Hall, the Berlin Konzerthaus, the Berlin Philharmonie and the Salzburg Mozarteum, but nevertheless her closest ties are to the Grand Hall of the Liszt Academy of Music. “Playing in the Grand Hall is the most genuine and marvellous feeling, with such incredible energies focused on the stage.” Besides giving traditional concerts, she also loves playing for children, and once in India she sat down and played in the street. While her own personality is reflected strongly in her cello playing, she always aims to translate each piece in its purest form. “We practice so we get closer to the true essence of the works, the way the composer might have heard them. As musicians, it’s primarily the works themselves, rather than ourselves, that we should be giving the most of to our audiences.”