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János Sebestyén was born 2 March 1931 in Budapest, Hungary. His musical education began in 1946 at the National Conservatory where his mother, Rózsi Mannaberg, was on the piano faculty. His father, Sándor Sebestyén, was a prominent pedagogue and principal cellist for opera orchestras in Göteborg and Budapest. Both parents had worked as musicians in Sweden during the 1920s, his mother as répétiteur for the Stora Theater. In 1950, while awaiting admission to the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, he joined the staff of the Hungarian Radio. At the Academy of Music he studied organ with János Hammerschlag and Ferenc Gergely, piano with István Antal, and composition with Ervin Major and Ferenc Szabó. He graduated in 1955 with an organ diploma and later attended the harpsichord class of Zuzana Růžičková in Prague. As soloist he performed throughout Europe, Asia and the United States, and made more than eighty recordings for a number of international labels. In 1970 he established the harpsichord class at the Academy of Music where he was professor until 2009. At the Hungarian Radio he served as senior producer for twenty-five years and from 1962 contributed a regular series of programs documenting European culture, politics and history. These broadcasts continued until 2007 and were followed by a series for Hungarian Catholic Radio. He also appeared on Hungarian television where he hosted the annual New Year's concert from Vienna for thirty-five years. His publications include a biography of Miklós Rózsa, Stories From My Life (1980), compiled from taped interviews with the composer, and Those Radio Years (1995), a history of the Hungarian Radio co-authored with Jenő Randé. He served as President of the Jury for the International Liszt Organ Competition in 1983, 1988 and 1993, and in 2000 for the First International Harpsichord Competition, Budapest. His awards in Hungary include the Erkel Prize in 1967, the Liszt Prize in 1974 and the title Artist of Merit in 1982. In August 2000 he was awarded the Officer's Cross by Hungarian president Ferenc Mádl in recognition of fifty years of service to the Hungarian Radio. International awards include the title Cavalier of the Italian Republic in 1984, the Portuguese title Grande Comendador of the Henrique Infante State Order in 1996 and in 1999 he was awarded the rank of Officer in the Isabella la Católica Order by King Juan Carlos I of Spain. In February 2000 he was awarded the title Cavalier of the Order of the Southern Cross by the Brazilian government, and in December that same year he was appointed Officer in the Royal Order of the Nordic Star by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. In recognition of his artistic achievements and commitment to Italian culture, he was awarded the title Official of the Italian Republic in November 2003. János Sebestyén died 4 February 2012 in Budapest.

János Sebestyén at the piano, harpsichord and organ.

Birthday Letter from János Szirányi     Zuzana Růžičková Memories

Further information on János Sebestyén's career and the harpsichord revival in Hungary can be found on the pages About This Site and A Short History of Harpsichord Playing in Hungary.