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Katica Illényi: Building Bridges with the Theremin

Hungarian violinist and thereminist Katica Illényi with her Moog Music Etherwave theremin.
Katica Illényi with her Moog Music Etherwave theremin.

An interview with theremin player Katica Illényi.

Katica Illényi is an artist of many talents. She plays the violin, sings, tap dances, and she also plays the theremin.

Katica comes from a family of musicians and has classical training. Her mother was an accomplished pianist, and her father, Ferenc Illényi, played in the Hungarian State Opera House. The first violin teacher of Katica was, in fact, her father, who decided to educate his four children, Katica, Ferenc, Anikó, and Csaba, to make them musicians. So it was that Katica began studying the violin at the age of three. At fourteen, she was admitted to the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, in the “special talents” class.

But once obtained her master’s degree in violin, Katica felt the need to cross the borders, too narrow for her, of the world of classical music, and devoted herself to jazz and world music. Furthermore, playing the violin was not enough for her. To express herself fully, she felt the need to sing and dance. Thus the study of the violin was accompanied by the study of singing, dance, and acting.

Hungarian musician Katica Illényi playing the violin on stage.
Katica Illényi playing the violin on stage.

This change of focus led her to play central roles in plays and musicals and to join the Budapest Klezmer Band for which she assumed the role of lead violinist and singer. At some point, TV shows began to invite her, and this started her solo career. Starting in 2002, she began to hold concerts characterized by an eclectic program that mixes classical music with jazz and movie soundtrack themes. This way, Katica has shown that it is possible to bring together different genres and build bridges between different cultures by giving the audience high-quality popular music.

She is one of the artists, along with Zoltán Kocsis, Andrea Rost, and Marta Sebestyén, chosen to represent Hungarian culture worldwide.

In 2014 Katica introduced the theremin to her audience at her New Year recital, which took place at the Palace of Arts Béla Bartók. Since then, she has continued to perfect herself with the instrument, and the theremin has remained a constant presence in her concerts.

13 thoughts on “Katica Illényi: Building Bridges with the Theremin

  1. Ruth Zaballero says:

    Great interview with Katica Illenyi who plays the Theremin Instrument and about her music , also the Violin and how she went about playing these two instruments….Great photos and write up on Katica, thank you sir, so much for this I enjoyed this very much!

  2. Rick Saphire says:

    I was very pleased to read this educational and entertaining story about Katica Illenyi and her love for the Theremin. I am fortunate to be Personal Representative for Katica and we are working hard to someday, in the not too distant future, to be scheduling a theatrical tour for this talented lady here in the USA. Please visit http://www.Katica.us to enjoy her wonderful talents on the violin, her dancing, her singing, and of course her amazing skill with the Theremin. Rick Saphire.

  3. Christophe Becker says:

    Two years ago I sent two completely original in design theremin boards to St. Petersburg Russia. I am about to complete my last build with improvements. Yes better use of the volume control where the outside field is more aggressive than the inside or quieting near the loop. This final build is placed in an EtherWave Standard box, it also will end up somewhere in Russia. – To be decided http://www.oldtemecula.com/theremin/tw/phoenix-first-time2.wav

  4. Serje Zaslavsky says:

    Hi Christophe! The sound is so lovely! Great job! I live in Saint Peterburg and have been playing theremin since 2010. Do u still make this addition to Etherwave? I would love to have one. Please let me know!) All the best!

    • Christophe Becker says:

      I sent you a fb friend request for more info of what is in development. I have a private group where you know everyone. It was Valery Shamarin that gave me encouragement to keep advancing over the last 20 years.

  5. Bevan says:

    Great article! Really enjoyed that Valerio.
    Question: I have a Big Briar Series 91A that my mother used to play. I am, however looking to sell it. Could you give me any recommendations for listing this Theremin? Also, what would this unit approximately go for in today’s market? I can’t find any for sale anywhere for reference. Thank you sir!

  6. Valerio Saggini
    Valerio Saggini says:

    Hey Bevan! Thank you.

    As for the Big Briar Series 91A it is pretty rare . I can’t tell you exactly what is its market value although I suppose it could be around 3-4 K. But I could be wrong. It depends also on the conditions, of course. Do you have also the original diamond speaker? If you send me photos I will gladly publish them in the News section along with your description. By the way, I’m curious, what kind of music did your mother play with it?

  7. Bevan says:

    Thank you so much for the response Valerio! If by Diamond speaker, you are referring to an external speaker, then no. She always played it with just the internal speakers, or if in a large room, would connect to our PA system. We traveled as a family in a Christian ministry which conducted musical programs at various churches and venues. Mom would always play a sacred hymn on the theremin. Mom & Dad acquired their first theremin directly from Robert Moog in the late 60’s. (Wish I still had that one!) I took a few pics of the Big Briar 91A that we have. Where could I send them brother? Thanks my friend!

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