JÁNOS SEBESTYÉN
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János Sebestyén was born in Budapest on 2 March 1931 and died there on 4 February 2012.

His father, Sándor Sebestyén (1891-1962), professor and author, studied cello with Adolf Schiffer and Arnold Földesy. His mother, Rózsi Mannaberg (1895-1986), studied piano with Arnold Székely and Wilhelm Backhaus. They both served on the faculty of the National Conservatory in Budapest and during the 1920s worked at the Stora Theatre in Göteborg, Sweden – his mother as répétiteur and his father as principal cellist for the opera orchestra.

His musical education began at the National Conservatory in 1946. At the Liszt Ferenc 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 with an organ diploma in 1955 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 several international labels. In 1970 he established the harpsichord class at the Academy of Music, where he was professor until 2009. From 1950 he was a prominent figure at the Hungarian Radio, contributing hundreds of programs documenting nearly every aspect of culture and politics during the last century. He also appeared regularly on Hungarian television, hosting the New Year's concert from Vienna for thirty-five years. His publications include Stories From My Life (1980), a biography of composer Miklós Rózsa compiled from taped interviews, 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 (1967), Liszt Prize (1974) and the title Artist of Merit (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 (1984), the Portuguese title Grande Comendador of the Henrique Infante State Order (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 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.

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