István Kassai graduated as a pianist at the Budapest Academy of Music in 1982, having studied in the class of Pál Kadosa. In 1984 he studied for his second diploma at the Conservatoire Européen de Musique under the close supervision of the world-famous professor Yvonne Lefébure. During and after his studies he also undertook several master courses, such as the one led by György Cziffra, who had a great impact on István’s artistic development.
István has won several first prizes in international competitions such as the 1972 International Piano Competition for Young Artists in Czechoslovakia, the 1979 Piano Competition organised by Hungarian Radio, and the 1982 International Debussy Piano Competition in Paris. István’s artistic talent was further acknowledged by such prestigious awards as the 1976 ARTISJUS-Prize, the 1986 Bonnaud-Chevillion-Prize of the Fondation de France, the 1990 Nívó Prize of Hungarian Radio, the 2001 Ferenc Liszt Prize and the 2010 Leó Weiner Memorial Prize.
István Kassai has made several recordings of the complete piano works of Ernest Bloch, Ferenc Erkel, Mihály Mosonyi, Leó Weiner and Jenő Hubay, which were followed by more than a dozen CD releases, including works by Ernő Dohnányi, Ferenc Liszt, Béla Bartók and Robert Volkmann. At his concerts, he has played the premieres or the first modern performances of numerous piano works, for example by Brahms and Bartók. Hungarian Radio has archived recordings of his works and performances.
István has published numerous articles and studies on music and edited many volumes of sheet music by composers and musicians such as Liszt, Mosonyi, Hubay, Weiner and György Cziffra. He has been one of the founding members of the Ferenc Erkel Society since 1989 and he was elected to the board of the Jenő Hubay Society in 1998. He has been a full member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts since 2013.
István was always determined to dedicate his artistic career to recording music. He considers his mission to preserve and convey the precious but unknown legacy of Hungarian classical music from the Romantic era and the turn of the 20th century to the present day.