The Kodály String Quartet is one of the world's leading veteran chamber ensembles. It traces its origin to 1966 when four students at the famous Franz (Ferenc) Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest founded a student string quartet named the Sebastyan Quartet.
The new chamber organization quickly gained a reputation as something special, and in the same year it was officially recognized with a victory at the Geneva International Quartet Competition. In 1968, the Sebastyan Quartet won the 1968 Leo Weiner Quartet Competition in Budapest, named after the violinist-composer who was a major teacher in chamber music, and the main advocate responsible for the international fame of Hungarian string quartets.
The Sebastyan Quartet was awarded the "Ferenc Liszt" Award in 1970. In 1980, new first violinist Attila Falvay joined the quartet, resulting in a lineup that would remain the same for over a decade; the veterans were violinist Tamás Szabó, violist Gabor Fias, and cellist János Devich. At that time the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education granted the quartet permission to change its name to the Kodály String Quartet, honoring Zoltán Kodály, one of the nation's greatest composers. The Kodály Quartet immediately began giving concerts in Europe, the Soviet Union, and Japan, and eventually major music centers around the world. In the 1990s, cellist Devich left the quartet and was replaced by György Éder, a veteran quartet musician and founder of the Éder String Quartet. At the turn of the millennium, Fias left, and the remaining members were joined by a new violist, János Fejérvári.
The Kodály Quartet plays the standard quartet repertory, with an emphasis on Hungarian quartets by such composers as Kodály, Dohnányi, Bartók, and other 20th century masters. It undertook a major series of recordings of Franz Joseph Haydn's quartets, for which it won the Classic CD Magazine Award for the Best Chamber Music Release of 1993 for the recording of the Op. 64 quartets. It has recorded for several labels, including Naxos, for which it is working on a cycle of the Franz Schubert string quartets.
In 1990, the Hungarian government named the group a "Merited Artist of the Hungarian Republic" and in 1996 won the Bartók-Pásztory Award named in honor of the composer's widow, Ditta Bartók-Pásztory.