Katalin Csillagh: How Did I Become a Steinway Artist?

Interview With The Artist

“I am always enthusiastic to meet a new Steinway piano. All Steinway pianos have a different personality but all of them are perfect.”

Katalin Csillagh

Katalin Csillagh concert pianist was 10 when she gave her fisrt recital at Franz Liszt Academy of Music, she played her own compositions. Beside Liszt Academy she also studied in Toronto and at Mozarteum is Salzburg. She won many international competitions, she gave recitals in Europe and in America, she already has many solo albums. Currently she is a professor at Franz Liszt Academy of Music. She was awarded the prestigeous title "Steinway Artist” on 14th May 2012. We asked her what it means exactly.

Katalin, do you remember the first time you met the piano?

Of course, I tried to stand up, my playpen was near the piano and I clambered on it. I liked as it made sound, so the piano became my favourite toy from that moment and my initial relation to the piano was playful. At the age of 3 or 4 I improvised melodies on pictures of storybooks.

Since when were you sure you want to be a concert pianist?

I can't remember any time I wasn't sure. Although this orientation wasn't so conscious when I was a child but while my favourite activity was playing the piano it was rather a natural progress than a decision that I became a pianist.

How did your career start?

I started learning to play the piano at the age of 6 at János Ferencsik Music School in Balatonfüred. We moved to Budapest when I was 10 and I attended Zoltán Kodály Primary and Music School, my piano teacher was Ivánné Mátyás, she prepared me for the entrance exam to the coservatory so I could attend the preparatory class of Béla Bartók High School at the age of 12. My teacher was Katalin Halmágyi from the beginning to the graduation. Then I got to Liszt Academy, I attended the class of György Nádor. I won scholarsips for further studies in Toronto and in Salzburg. During these studies I won many competitions.

What kind of piano did you have at that time?

When I was small I played on the instruments inherited from the family. As my studies went professional it was time to buy a really good instrument so I got the Steinway when I was 13.

How did you get your Steinway piano?

We bought it from a musician family, finding their advertisement. It is an old instrument we had to renew it but it is a faithful partner since then.

How did you meet the title "Steinway Artist”?

With my cellist friend Ágnes Kállay we won a Beethoven competition in London which was held in the Steinway Hall. There was a label "Steinway Artist" on each practicing room. I went to the office and I asked what it means exactly. As I remember I applied the next day to start the process and after a few months I received the letter with the beautiful stamp and the original signature of the director of the factory that they congratulate me for being a new Steinway Artist and they greet me in the Steinway family.

What kind of advantages does this title bring?

First if you look through the list and see who the predecessors are, you will be touched. My name is on the list of Steinway & Sons artists database on their website, among the greatest pianists in the world. I can use any Steinway Hall to give a recital, I can use their whole infrastructure, the practicing rooms all over the world. This is comforting, I have no problems with practicing while traveling.

What are the conditions for an artist to be awarded?

The artist has to own a Steinway piano. You must give a certain number of recitals every year on a Steinway piano and you should present this list retroactively for a few years. You are also qualified based on your biography. They expect absolute loyalty which isn't hard while these are the best pianos in the world.

How can you use this title in your career?

If a great company gives its name to an artist, it means admission to certain places. It is like a compact biography.