“You are what you play”

Katica Illényi’s new love is tango

Katica Illényi is full of energy, her love towards life radiates. She is passionate, full of devotion, seeking for perfection in everything she starts doing. When the interview commenced, she received a message from his brother, that his second child has born. In this elated mood, we have talked about music, concerts, exercise, a special instrument called theremin and also about her new passion, the tango. 





„I wanted know everything about the stage”

You have started as a classical musician, though you are also commited to play quality pop music.

How did your repertoire become so varied?

– Life includes important milestones. Until I finished all my studies to receive a diploma in violin, I only played classical music. My father was a violinist at the Hungarian National Opera, he taught music for my three siblings and also for myself. Besides classical music, I was opened to any other genre. As a hobby, I listened to jazz, world music and quality pop music. I admired the american movies with music, from the 40’s-50’s, such as the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. They were my idols. It was great to watch them sing, dance and act in the same time. As a result of that enthusiasm, I have started singing, and studied jazz and tap dance. It started as a hobby and became a responsibility. I studied a new profession with my violinist diploma. I stood next to the ballet bar until the age of forty from my own will, being determined.

I believed and still believe, that a performer has to move nicely as he/she comes in, bows and communicates with his/her whole being. For that reason knowing how to dance is needed. I wanted to acquire everything, which is related to the stage. I reached to the point when I decided, that I would like to create my own concerts. I wanted to add something more to music such singing and dance. Choosing your repertoire is important because you are what you play.

Theremin is not an ordinary stage instrument. How did you come across with it? How did you learn how to play on it, or rather play with it? Since, you don’t need to touch this instrument.

– I found it on YouTube. I regularly brows through it listening to music, searching, collecting, and it was a coincidence, that I found it. Theremin captivated me so much, that I couldn’t sleep that night due the excitement I felt. I knew I want one, but you can’t buy one in Hungary, therefore I had to order it from the USA. At first, I tried to navigate through it on my own. This is the only instrument, which you are able to create sound with, without touching it, thus there is no physical contact! There is an antenna on both right and left side with an electromagnetic field in between, that is where.

– I move my hands, I control the volume with my left and the pitch with my right hand. Since we are talking about an electromagnetic field, the size of the space also has an influence on where the tunes are in that field. I was so determined, that I went to courses in Germany and France. I was as excited as a little student. I always get excited when I can learn something new, I like the process of learning.

– When you give a concert you have to be mentally and phisically doing your best. How do you keep fit?

– One most do sports besides work. I sit a lot, concentrating on rehearsing, practicing. I did Bikram yoga for years, which is something you do in a really hot room for 90 minutes, though I found a more dynamic practice, which challenges your strength, called Ashtanga yoga. I wanted to move on – new challenges were needed! Recently, I have been watching videos from the best Yoga teachers in the world, that is what I learn from. Ashtanga yoga is physically challenging a lot, it may get stressful for the muscles and joints. It has to be done with care, you need to get used to it. It took me half a year to gain the strenght, so I can practice everyday. I believe in doing sports regularly as I require to feel that my muscles are pulled to their right places. I am a vegetarian for 20 years now. I was sensitive to animal based protein, so I had to change to the diet because of medical reasons. I try to eat moderately.


I was sensitive to animal proteins, so I came back from the health of this diet. I try to eat moderately.

– How do you step out of the intensified mood of concerts and big preperations? How do you relax?

– I love travelling, I spent three weeks with a friend of mine in Florida a short time ago. I never really had the experience before, when I could go abroad and stay without needing to focus on my energy level. A real holiday! I brought my violin with me of course! The concert I will give in october was already in my mind, I was already preparing for it. It also happens, that I relax for weeks. The moment there is no stress from deadlines coming up and I practice because I want to, not because of the obligation, I feel relaxed. After big concerts I meet up with friends, we hang out, we socialize.

The new love

– You are right, I live the tango period of my life..

– What made you start?

– Saul Cosentino, an Argentine composer has sent me a few songs of his. I learned and performed one his songs. It made people cry on my last new years concert, it was a catharsis experience. This led me to the Argentine composer, Astor Piazzolla’s piece: The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. The following craze sprung from that piece as well. I started to dance argentine tango. I realized if I am playing tango music, I need to know how it feels to dance tango.


Saul Cosentino has sent me songs, he composed. I liked them all. I have learnt and performed one of his songs. It made people cry on my last new years concert, it was a catharsis experience.


РI am curious, where and when can we listen to Katica Ill̩nyi?

– I will give a “Tango classic” concert on the 21st of October at the Vigadó. I will be accompanied by a fantastic chamber orchestra, on my contemporary and classical tango music night. Anima Musicae was found by young students from the Music Academy, this is the first time we are going to play together. This will be followed by an anniversary concert at the Congress Center Budapest on the 17th of February. This is the day on which, I will celebrate my birthday and the 25th anniversary of my career. Tango will be in my repertoire as well. There will be a lot of guests performing, who were part of my career and my life. I invited musician friends, who I highly respect, both as a musician and as a person as well.

– You not only perform in Hungary. Where are you playing abroad next?

– I have an invitation to Jordan in September. I will be performing as the solist of the National Orcestra of Jordan, in the Al-Hussein Concert Hall. I will be singing, playing the violing and the theremin as well. Maestro Mohammad Sidiq will be the conductor.

– Certainly in beautiful clothes as we are already used to that. By the way, how are these clothes made?

– Andrea Bencsik has been designing them for more than fifteen years now. I always send her the music before my concerts and she starts drawing and designing while listening to it, this is how my clothes is made for the “Tango Classic” night as well. It is very important that the clothes is not only pretty and spectacular, but it is also comfortable so I can play the violin and move around onstage.

– We are in the middle of the summer as we are talking. What are your plans with the family?

– We plan a holiday every year with my siblings, their children and with my mom. We have our favourite place at the shores of the Körös river. It is great to be here since it is not crowdy. I like to rank off. I don’t like noise and buzz. We rent a family summer house. At the end of the big backyard we have the pier and the boat. Beautiful environment, piece. I can charge up.

Published by Pannon Preztizs Magazine. Author Zsuzsa R. Szabó

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