Hungary mourns one of its most-loved musicians

The harpsichordist Janos Sebestyen – a national treasure – has died at 80.

A student of Zuzana R?ži?ková, Sebestyen established the first harpsichord class at the Academy of Music in 1970 and taught there until 2009. He made 80 recordings, was a senior producer at state radio and wrote the biography of the film composer Miklos Rozsa.

Here he is, playing Prokofiev on the harpsichord:

 

 

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  • There have been, here and there, comments to the effect that people like Janos Sebestyen, Mme Ruzickova, and others were in the dark or disadvantaged because they were unable to take part in the revival of the historical harpsichord in the Leonhardt vein.

    While no doubt the revival of the historical instrument was an important step in music history, people like Sebestyen did something else which is important. They continued the tradition of those earlier than them who used the harpsichord in the medium of contemporary music and who continued the dialogue with composers. For these musicians, the harpsichord was a living, breathing instrument.

    They had the courage to engage with modernity – many ‘historical’ harpsichordists have not shown the same. I hope that many of us can take inspiration from people like Sebestyen to widen the horizons of the harpsichord. These were people of great conviction and artistry, and perhaps their take on the instrument might have longer-term ramifications, contrary to what we think!

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