March 4, 1936. Rákospalota
A French critic named Erika Sziklay the voice soloist of two Schoenberg song-cycles (Op. 6, Op. 15) released by Hungaroton, arguably the most splendid performer of the „Viennese" composers. Although a basic characteristic of the style of our critic is the abundant use of superlatives - not only regarding the performer – the well-judged symbolic first place at the performances of the music of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern can not be considered as an exaggerated phrase. Sziklay sang the Pierrot lunaire in Paris in 1972 so successfully that she was invited again for a performance of the Schoenberg composition after 10 years. She also sang the soprano solo of the Concerto per la notte di Natale dell'anno 1956 by Luigi Dallapiccola with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, led by Péter Eötvös at that occasion. She received invitation as a celebrated singer to Mme Pompidou's flat where she met numerous French artists such as Pierre Boulez, among others. The deservedly memorable Paris tour in 1982 is one of the peaks of Erika Sziklay's career as a singer, the two decades spent by performing modern and contemporary works is a fulfilment of her performing work, implying fame and international recognition.
She is from a family of musicians, her mother was an excellent pianist, her father was a music teacher. After finishing high school, she was enrolled at the Secondary School of Music at age 18 as a voice and piano major student. She was admitted to the voice division of the Academy of Music in 1957 as a 3rd year student. She studied with Mrs. Istvánné Kapitánffy at the conservatory and with Oszkár Maleczky at the Academy. The piano sonatas of Beethoven, the slow movement of the seventh symphony, the La traviata by Verdi and the Faust by Gounod were among defining musical experiences of her childhood.
She wanted to be an opera singer originally but when she got acquainted with the works of young composer colleagues her interest turned towards modern music. She sang the Op 12. lieder of Webern at her degree recital in 1960, later the Trakl songs of Lajos Papp, then the Five Ady-lieder of Bartók at autumn, 1961 and the Op. 25 series of Webern. On February 22, 1963, she participated in the Hungarian premiere of Schonberg's Pierrot lunaire more than a half-century after its premiere in Berlin. She performed the Medália by Gábor Darvas, the Dartmouth Concerto by Zsolt Durkó and The sayings of Bornemisza Péter by György Kurtág at one concert in 1968. She sang almost exclusively the premieres of modern works during the 1960s for the most part compositions of contemporary Hungarian composers (Mihály Hajdú, Zoltán Jeney, Pál Kadosa, György Kósa, István Láng, Rudolf Maros, Endre Székely and others). Her humble devotion and attention towards the works were honoured by new compositions, dedicated to her. The most favourite for Erika Sziklay is the Two Dirges by Rudolf Maros among those.
Her artistry and musical interest are certainly not limited to contemporary music. Due to her wide knowledge of music and outstanding abilities, she is comfortable in other eras and genres of music in the works of Scarlatti, Schubert, Schumann, Mussorgsky, Debussy, Ravel or de Falla. Her critics frequently emphasize her light singing, clear intonation, intimate and suggestive performances, the high quality of her musical knowledge and mention her special sense for the humour in the deep layers of the pieces.
In her opinion the ideal performer sings or plays with an innate naturalness as clearly as she would speak. Among instrumentalists Sviatoslav Richter, Henryk Szeryng and mezzo soprano Zara Doluhanova made great impact on her. She regards the performances of the Pierrot in 1974, Berg's Altenberg lieder in 1981 and Falun series by Bartók in 1983 remarkable among her concerts in Hungary, and among her appearances abroad two of her trips to England (1969, 1973) besides the above mentioned French tours. Her artistry and the glimmering clearness of her voice are preserved on numerous recordings, many of which have won international record prizes (Schoenberg: Pierrot lunaire, 1972; Bartók: Twenty Hungarian Folksongs, Falun; Kurtág: The Sayings of Bornemisza Péter, 1978).
The portrait of her personality as a musician would not be complete without acknowledging another important field of her work: teaching. It is not necessary that a first-class artist should be a good teacher as well, but the name of Erika Sziklay represents quality in voice teaching also. Generations grew up by her guidance at the voice division of the Academy of Music. Her students are characterized by safe technical abilities and authentic musical interpretation of works. Her musicality, artistry, devotion for contemporary music further enrich our musical life by her most talented pupils (Ingrid Kertesi, Katalin Szendrényi, Zita Váradi, Attila Fekete, Andrea Meláth).