"On any concert stage, Siki must be recognized as a major talent. His technical mastery of the piano is awesome, and the technique is informed by a mature musical mind."
--The Seattle Times, Jan. 26, 1967In a regional newspaper article announcing pianist Bela Siki's acceptance in 1965 of a faculty post at the UW School of Music, the artist was asked what advice he would give to budding pianists. Siki responded with an anecdote:
There's a man running on the street in New York and he stops another man and says, 'Would you please tell me how I can get quickly to Carnegie Hall?' The man then answers, 'Well, practice!'
An appropriate answer for a pianist who, in a career spanning 50 years, has distinguished himself as both a performer and a teacher.
Siki, who studied under Leo Weiner, Ernest von Dohnanyi, and Dinu Lipatti, served on the UW faculty from 1965 to 1980, and then again from 1985 to his retirement in 1993. Born in Budapest, Siki made his first public appearance at the age of 16. He moved to Geneva, Switzerland in 1947.
In both 1942 and 1943, Siki won first prize in the Franz Liszt Society Piano Competition. In 1948, he won the prestigious Concours International d'Execution Musical in Geneva. That distinction launched his international musical career.
Over the years, Siki toured Europe annually; he visited Australia and New Zealand eight times, and South American and South Africa twice. He has been a soloist with the world's most reputed symphony orchestras, including the London Philharmonic, BBC Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Concertgebouw, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, National Orchestra of Madrid, Sydney Symphony, and Tokyo Philharmonic, working with such eminent conductors as Ansermet, Sacher, Goosens, and van Otterloo. Siki's recordings have been issued by Columbia, Pye, Nippon Columbia, Vox, and Precision Records. And he is frequently invited to be a member of juries at international competitions, particularly at Leeds, where he has been a member of the jury for six consecutive seasons.
Siki has attracted many talented students to the UW over the years, including the School of Music's current director, Robin McCabe, who is professor of piano and head of the School's keyboard division. McCabe is a former faculty member of the Juilliard School in New York, and was the subject of a feature article in the New Yorker magazine chronicling the progress of a young Juilliard student from Washington State who emerged as the sought-after artist she is today.
At the UW, studying with Siki, McCabe was a Brechemin Scholarship winner. After graduating and completing the masters and doctoral degrees at Juilliard, where she studied with Rudolf Firkusny, McCabe won the 1975 Concert Artists Guild Competition which resulted in her Carnegie Recital Hall performance. In 1978 she debuted at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall under a grant from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation.
The Boston Globe has described McCabe's music as "brilliant, natural piano playing that shows as much independence of mind as of fingers." Tokyo critics acclaimed McCabe's performances during her 1984 Japan tour as "dynamic and exhilarating, revealing total superiority and command of the keyboard."
McCabe can be heard on the Vanguard label playing the American premiere performance on disc of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite arranged for piano along with a performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The recording has been praised for its color, strength, and rhythmic vitality. She also has made four recordings on the Swedish BIS label.
In 1995, McCabe received the UW's annual faculty lectureship, the first music school faculty member to be so honored.