Bloomington, IN, November 16, 1999 - Indiana University's György
the internationally renowned pianist and teacher, died in Bloomington Sunday after a brief illness and just days after his 77th birthday.
Sebök, who held the title of Distinguished Professor, had taught at the IU School of Music since 1962. He was known worldwide as a soloist with major orchestras, a recitalist on four continents, a recording artist, and for his master classes, visiting professorships, and the Swiss music festival he organized.
Sebök was listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Music, the National Register of Prominent Americans, and other biographical dictionaries. He received numerous honors, including the Cross of Merit of the Hungarian Government, La Medaille de la Ville de Paris, Echelon Vermeille, and, in 1996, Kulturpreis des Staates Wallis, (Prix de Consecration). Also in 1996, the French Government bestowed on him the decoration Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Sebök was a guest professor of the Berlin Hochschule der Kunste in Germany, there teaching master classes twice a year. He was also an honorary life (MORE) (SEBOK/2) member of Tokyo's Toho School of Music, and a regular guest teacher at the Banff Centre for Arts; the Amsterdam Conservatorium, the School of Music in Barcelona, and the Hochschule fuer Musik in Stuttgart. He founded and organized annual summer master classes in Ernen, Switzerland where he also founded and directed the "Festival der Zukunft." The city's officials made him an honorary citizen - only their third in 800 years.
Born in Szeged, Hungary Nov. 2, 1922, Sebök gave his first solo piano recital at age 11. At 14, he played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 under conductor Ferenc Fricsay - a performance upon which he would reflect many years later. At age 16, he enrolled in the Franz Liszt Academy, where he studied with Zoltán Kodály and Leo Weiner. Upon graduating, he concertized for 10 years throughout Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. In 1949, he was named professor of music at the Béla Bartók Conservatory in Budapest. After the Hungarian revolt of 1956, he settled in Paris. In 1957 the first of his many recordings won the Grand Prix du Disque.
Prior to a 1985 recital at IU's Musical Arts Center, Sebök looked back on his concert at age 14, and drew a connection between that event and his teaching philosophy. "During the third movement I made some mistakes," he recalled, "but I didn't feel guilty about it because I felt I had done my best. We had a neighbor, a music lover, who said to my grandfather about my performance, 'Oh, that was wonderful, but in the third movement something went wrong.' My grandfather became very angry and him and said, 'I don't care, because the sun has spots, too.' That was a beautiful thing for my grandfather to say, I think, and sometimes I remember that: Even the sun has spots."
Similarly, Sebök helped his students overcome fear of mistakes in order to give their best performances.
"Whatever you do stays forever in people's minds. That can be scary, and fear is the worst adviser because love and fear don't live easily together," he said. "Love of music should dominate . . .The fight is not between the instrument and the person, but it is within the person; the performer fights himself . . . To win the fight over yourself means resistance to fear, usually very primitive fear, but that fear can be given up."
"One has to accept that to be human is to be fallible, and then do the best one can and be captured by the music," he concluded.
Sebök is survived by his wife, Vica, and a sister, Eva.
Contributions to the Sebök Scholarship for Music can be made through the Indiana University Foundation.