Skip to Main Content

The Kilenyi Family

Biographical information, bibliography, and selected links to materials relating to concert pianist and FSU professor Edward Kilenyi (1910-2000) and his family.


Edward Kilenyi, Jr., was professor of piano at FSU from 1953–1983 and continued to teach as an adjunct thereafter.

Kilenyi spent part of his childhood in Hungary and part in New York.  In 1921 he first met and played for Ernst von Dohnányi, who was on an American concert tour; Dohnányi suggested that he study at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, which he did beginning the following year.  He studied piano with Irene Senn and later with Dohnányi himself.  His first major recital was with the Concertgebouw in 1929, after which he continued on at the Academy to earn the Artist Diploma, at Dohnányi's insistence.

Kilenyi settled in Paris from 1933–1939, which served as the hub for his concert tours through France and England, and began recording for the Pathé label.  Although Kilenyi later said some of his early recordings "made him cringe," others were quite well recieved; his 1938 recording of the Liszt Totentanz wond the Grand Prix du Disque.

In 1939, with the onset of World War II, Kilenyi returned to America, but was called up for military service in 1942. He was quickly promoted, eventually reaching the rank of captain, and after the war officially ended in Europe he remained in Bavaria as part--and later head--of the American military government's Music Control Office, which was partly responsible for oversight of denazification efforts in Germany.

After returning to New York, Kilenyi was faced with the task of reestablishing his career, which had flagged during his time in the army, and was also kept busy defending Dohnányi from false charges of Nazi collaboration in the press and attempting to arrange for him to settle in the United States.  In 1947 he gave the first of his Beethoven concerts in which the audience voted for four of the thirty-two sonatas to be played; in 1949 he arranged matters for Dohnányi's immigration and visa when he joined the faculty of FSU; and in 1951 he became music director for Remington Records, for which he also recorded.

In 1953, Kilenyi joined Dohnányi on the faculty of FSU.  From that point, although he continued to concertize and record, he focused primarily on teaching.  He remained active as a member of the Liszt Society of America and continued to champion the works of Dohnányi and other Hungarian composers..

Promotional flyer for Edward Kilenyi, Jr. (click for full view)


The Florida State University Libraries

© 2022 Florida State University Libraries | 116 Honors Way | Tallahassee, FL 32306 | (850) 644-2706