In 2007 world renowned cello virtuoso János Starker attested to the exceptional talent and budding international potential of fellow Hungarian cellist Ildikó Szabó. In the mean time Ildikó Szabó has lived up to this claim. She has won prizes at 16 international competitions based in Europe, including at the International Pablo Casals Cello Competition (Hungary) in 2014 at which she won a total of eight prizes.
“Her technique is impeccable (...) She has proven herself a true artist who utterly enjoys being on stage and manages to perform to the absolute best of her capabilities in front of an audience”, says Iván Fischer who on multiple occasions has engaged Ildikó Szabó for soloist performances with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. In addition to the aforementioned ensemble, she has performed alongside the Hungarian National Philharmonic, the Concerto Budapest, the Porto Symphony Orchestra, the Magdeburgische Philharmonie and the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra.
Ildikó stems from a renowned Hungarian family of great musical tradition: her grandfather Csaba was active as a composer and musicologist; her father, Péter, currently holds the position of Solo Cellist with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. From the age of 11, Ildikó studied with László Mező in Budapest and attended master classes with János Starker, before switching to Jens Peter Maintz in Berlin in 2011. Since 2018 she has continued her studies in Weimar under the guidance of Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt, who has meanwhile promoted her to the position of teaching assistant: “Her technique is impeccable, her sound is warm and flexible and she feels at home in all musical styles from baroque to contemporary music. Her interpretations are both intelligent and heartfelt.”
Ildikó Szabó’s strong connection to Germany - she currently resides in Berlin - draws on a series of competition successes and grants which include the TONALi Grand Prix Hamburg (2012) as well as scholarships of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (since 2013) and the German Music Competition (2016). Her 2017/18 season encompassed over 30 recitals across Germany, including in the Konzerthaus Berlin - an event to which she was invited by her mentor Alfred Brendel. She has also performed at the Festival in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the Rheingau Festival, the Heidelberger Frühling and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. Previous international appearances include at the Verbier Festival, the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival Los Angeles, the International Bach Festival in Las Palmas, the Chamber Music Festival Krzyżowa- Music in Kreisau, Poland, and the Menuhin Festival Gstaad.
Szabó has a particular passion for Hungarian and Transylvanian repertoire. To this end she has developed and cultivated personal relationships with György Kurtág and Péter Eötvös. Her discography reflects said affinity: her debut CD, titled “Dance of the Eleves” (2008) and recorded at the age of 14 was succeeded by a recording (2014) of the Double Concerto for Two Cellos Op. 69 by the Hungarian late Romantic composer Emánuel Moór. Her newest album “Heritage” (2020) - which was nominated for the German Record Critics’ Award - features an exploratory journey of her musical roots and includes world premiere recordings of works by György Kurtág and Csaba Szabó, her grandfather, who passed away in 2003. Her advocacy of contemporary repertoire is further highlighted by her involvement in numerous premiere performances, including the Budapest premiere (2019) of the Cello Concerto by Miklós Rózsa. At the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival 2020 she introduced audiences to the novel compositions of Csenge Mihalicza and Petra Szászi.
Ildikó Szabó has performed in numerous internationally acclaimed concert halls including the Mariinski-Theater St. Petersburg, the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus in Las Palmas, the Elbphilharmonie and the Laieszhalle in Hamburg, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles as well as the Franz-Liszt Musikakademie and the Palace of Arts Budapest. She has performed under the batons of conductors including Iván Fischer, Michael Sanderling, Luciano di Martino and Zsolt Hamar. She has cooperated with virtuosos such as Arnold Steinhardt, Ferenc Rados, Viviane Hagner, Volker Jacobsen, Claudio Bohórquez, Clemens Trautmann and Dénes Várjon on numerous chamber music projects.
Since 2020 Ildikó Szabó has continued her studies at the Kronberg Academy with Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt. Her studies there are made possible by the Christa Verhein Foundation. She currently plays an Antonio Sgarbi cello (Rome, 1894) which, since 2013, has been on loan to her by the German Fund for Musical Instruments.