Katica Illényi, a Liszt Prize winner violinist, has always shown something special over the years: she often sings or dances at her concerts, she has learnt to play a very special intrument, the theremin. I have talked with her about the diversity of the genres, the popularization of the pieces of Hungarian composers and her future plans.
You are considered to be a very versatile artist as you have tried several genres like classical music or jazz. How could you do this? Which genre is the closest to you?
I have to admit that I cannot choose one, I love all of them equally. I have started to learn classical music, so this is the basis of everything. At the beginning, jazz was just a hobby for me, but I tried to improve. It is very difficult to play jazz when you are a classical musician, because you have to do everything differently, the rhythm is very different. The basis of jazz is the improvisation which is rarely present in classical music, you have to do everything as it is written in the music sheet. This is very challenging for me, because if you play jazz you are also composing music, and the composition depends on the atmosphere. I like to play different genres, and I think that the more things you try out, you are going to be better in other genres as well. So the classical music has an impact on jazz and vice versa. I will have a concert called “Tango Classic” in October, which is another area. The violinist can play tango so emotionally and so passionately, and this is close to classical music. And I’m glad that I can try this out, because I think the mood of a person always changes. This gives me great freedom and I can express these emotions with the help of the variety of genres.
How does the audience accept this diversity?
The audience may not even notice how we change from one genre to another. The most important aspect when I am preparing for a concert is to be qualitative and entertaining. A Bartók piece and Edith Piaf chanson can be chosen for a concert, although these two are extremely different, but I have been on the stage for at least 25 years, so thanks to the routine, I can easily compile these eclectic programs. When I change the genre I always talk about the piece and the composer. I’ve always had a kind of desire to talk: I always talk about the pieces and this makes the audience feel more comfortable. But of course, there is always a concept, for example a classical piece can be easily followed by a tango and then a jazz. These are very exciting things.
It is very important for you to promote the pieces of the Hungarian composers during your foreign performances. How successful is this? How does the foreign audience accept this?
I think we can say without modesty that we, Hungarians, play Liszt’ pieces quite differently than anyone else. You can feel patriotism from Liszt’s Hungarian rhapsody. I am always playing Liszt’s, Bartók’s, Kodály’s and Weiner’s pieces at my concerts and I am constantly trying to broaden my repertoire, as we have many outstanding composers. However, the place of the performance has a major role and because of the place, the show is going to be quite different. Once I have played An Evening in the Village by Béla Bartók at the Cultural Palace, Marosvásárhely (Targu Mures.). The concert stopped for a few minutes: people welcomed it with tearful eyes and they extremely applauded. It is also a deep spiritual experience to play this piece in Hungary, but in Transylvania it was a particularly awesome experience.
You are going to release two different albums. What is the specialty of these albums?
One is going to be a CD-DVD recording about the 2017 Opening Concert, where Micheller Myrtill, Hajnal Magyar, Péter Sárik, Árpád Pirovits, and my brother, Csaba Illényi were my guests. We have a good relationship, we wanted to meet and talk, but everyone is so busy that we could not find a date, so we had to organize a concert so that we could meet. (Laughs) The other one is going to be a theremin album, where the most famous movie soundtracks can be heard and my brother going to make all arrangements. I think that people are mostly looking for movie soundtracks, so this is an excellent opportunity to promote this special instrument.
What are your plans for the future? Where will you have concert?
During the summer, I will have two different jazz programs. One of them is going to be presented at the Jazz Festival At Lake Bánk with one of my best friends, Csaba Deseő, and the other one is going to be with Péter Sárik and his orchestra and with my brother at several places, including Nyírbátor’s Music Days, Szeged’s Autumn Jewish Cultural Festival. In addition to these, I will also play classical music with the Budapest String Chamber Orchestra, at Kapolcs -Valey of the Arts Festival in July. I’am the soloist of the Jordanian National Symphony Orchestra in Amman, at the end of September. The “Tango Classic” concert is going to be held on the 21st of October at Vígadó. I will be accompanied by the Anima Musicae Chamber Orchestra. A very talented and enthusiastic young people. The conductor is going to be Márton Rácz and Rita Termes will play piano. Next year in February, I will have a jubilee birthday concert and I’m already preparing for it.
Author: Zita Izsó