Katica Illényi Bánki jazz festival interview

You will perform at the Louis Armstrong Jazz Festival in Hungary. What kind of pieces will you play?

We will choose Stéphane Grappelli’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s most popular pieces for our repertoire. These two wonderful musicians are a role model for everyone and these pieces will entertain not only the audience, but the performers as well. In addition to this, Stéphane Grappelli has completely changed my life and my relationship with music when I first heard him. Then I fell in love with jazz music – before that I have only learnt classical music at the F. Liszt Music Academy and I played at the Hungarian Opera and Erkel Theater, lot’s of time I substituted my father. I know all the pieces composed by Grappelli, obviously I am his fan and follower. In 2008, I had a performance with Grappelli’s pieces in Thália Theather, where I played with Csaba Deseő.

According to the biographical data, You have received a violinist degree at the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy in 1991, so You were taught classical music by masters such as Dénes Kovács. Yet, today you play mostly jazz at your concerts. Why is this genre so attractive?

What does not exist in classical music is the basis of jazz. This is the improvisation. There is freedom and the joy of spontaneous composing on the stage is a huge experience for me. Improvisation is always created by the atmosphere of the concerts and by the colleagues, how they are working together. It is never repeatable and this is the beauty in it. There are always jazz pieces in my repertoire, the proportion of classical music and jazz music constantly changes. It depends on the type of the concert. In summer, I will play many jazz with Péter Sárik and his trio, but we also will play Bach. Meanwhile, I’m already preparing for my “Tango Classic” concert, where you can hear only tango pieces, for example Piazzolla: Four Seasons of Buenos Aires accompanied by the Anima Musicae Chamber Orchestra. The pieces for this concert are very difficult. Besides this, I am preparing with the Budapest Strings for a mostly classical concert. In September, I will perform with the Jordan National Symphony Orchestra in Amman, so the ratio of classical and jazz music changes from concerts to concerts. Fortunately, my piano accompanimen, Prof. István Bundzik, who is the Head of  Piano Department of the Bartók Béla Jazz Conservatory and the pianist of the Miskolc Dixieland Band, he always travels with me, so it is also possible to hear a jazz piece at any time. Gábor Cseke will play piano in Bánk on 1st of July and I have already worked with him a lot.

In Bánk, on July 1, Gábor Cseke will play the piano, and I have worked with him a lot.


You are considered to be one the of the best theremin artist in the world. Will you play theremin in Bánk? By the way, can the theremin be embedded in a jazz performance?


Theremin is used in more lyrical genres, although I’ve heard playing slow jazz standards. Though I think that Stéphane Grappelli’s pieces will be played on violin at the festival. Theremin can be heard and seen in many of my concerts, but not at this concert, where I am not a soloist. To my pleasure I will perform with Csaba Deseő. I would like to take every opportunity to play violin with Csaba.

Did you make a list of the pieces that you want to play? Which of these pieces do you recommend especially for the public?

We made the repertoire with Csaba Deseő and I mainly recommend those pieces which we will perform together. We have been close friends for ages, we love each other almost as if we were siblings and the joy of playing music together will certainly be felt by the audience as well. 

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