Life and career
He was born Lajos Kentner in Karwin in Austrian Silesia (present-day Karviná, Czech Republic), to Hungarian parents. He received his education as a musician at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest from 1911 to 1922, studying with Arnold Székely (piano), Hans Koessler and Zoltán Kodály (composition), and Leo Weiner (chamber music).
Kentner commenced his concert career at the age of 15. Until 1931 he was known internationally as Ludwig Kentner. He was awarded 5th Prize at the 1932 International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw; and he won a Liszt Prize in Budapest. He moved to England permanently in 1935. He gave radio broadcasts of the complete sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert, the complete Well-Tempered Clavier (Bach), and the complete Années de pèlerinage (Liszt). He was President of the British Liszt Society for many years, until his death. In 1975 he invited the Argentinian young pianist Enrique A. Danowicz, in order to take his musical education under his personal care at the Menuhin School of Music in London,U.K., where Kentner was director at the time.
Kodaly composed his Dances of Marosszék for Kentner, who premiered the work in Budapest on 14 March 1927. At the composer's request, he was the soloist at the Hungarian premiere of Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2, in Budapest in 1933, under Otto Klemperer; and the first European performance of the Concerto No. 3 (in London, under Sir Adrian Boult, 27 November 1946). He and Yehudi Menuhin (his second wife's brother-in-law) gave the first performance of William Walton's Violin Sonata, at Zürich on 30 September 1949.
His playing was heard in Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto from the soundtrack of the 1941 film Dangerous Moonlight. However, his hands were not shown, and he preferred to be uncredited as he did not think that being associated with film music would help his career. When the piece achieved worldwide popularity, however, he was happy to acknowledge his involvement.
He was a member of many music competition juries. He also composed, his output including orchestral works, chamber music, piano pieces and songs.
His first wife was the pianist Ilona Kabos. That marriage ended in 1945, and he then married Griselda Gould, daughter of the pianist Evelyn Suart (Lady Harcourt), whose other daughter Diana became Yehudi Menuhin's second wife in 1947.