The Hungarian-born American pianist and teacher, Irén Marik, had a top-shelf pedigree. She studied at Budapest's Liszt Academy and for a time with composer Béla Bartók, from whom she later said she learned little. She spent a few years spent in London in the 1920's, studying with George Woodhouse (a Leschetizky pupil) and giving recitals throughout Britain, Ireland, playing for BBC radio.
Irén Marik's American debut took place in November 1946 at Constitution Hall: Bach-Busoni: Chaconne, Franz Liszt: Bénédiction de Dieu dans la Solitude, Zoltán Kodály: Dances of Marosszék, Delibes-Dohnanyi: Valse from 'Naila', and possibly as an encore, Bach-Bauer transcription of the chorale Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Next, the National Gallery of Art (February 1947): Z. Kodály, B. Bartók, F. Liszt, L.v. Beethoven's Sonata Op. 53, and four Scarlatti Sonatas. In June, a gala at the Watergate complex, where Marik joined Gladys Swarthout, the Don Cossack Chorus, Jesus Maria Sanroma, Hilde Somer, Jorge Bolet, Sydney Foster, and Joseph Fuchs. Later that month she performed L.v. Beethoven's Fifth Concerto with the National Symphony under Bates.
Hungary's dissolution into a communist state in 1947 compelled Irén Marik to defect; she applied for and was granted USA citizenship, never to return to her homeland. She settled in the desert near Death Valley, California, and abandoned her concert career in order to teach. She was offered a teaching position at Sweet Briar College, a move which allowed for her professional survival. Her years in Virginia consisted mostly of giving lessons, but she did not stop playing the piano. She continued to practice (sometimes seven hours a day), recorded occasionally in studios and gave informal concerts for friends. These were frequently recorded, by Marik and others, for purposes of study. A first volume of Marik's interpretations was released to critical acclaim in 2004; the 2nd volume, From Bach to Bartok, which was released in 2006, includes pieces by J.S. Bach, L.v. Beethoven and B. Bartók, as well as others she had worked on in private for years.
On retiring, Irén Marik moved to the California desert. Her life was essentially a tireless quest for perfection in playing the music she chose. Whereas many pianists reevaluate a work and continually develop ideas and new approaches to its interpretation, Marik somehow instantly grasped a work in its totality, which demanded years of effort to refine each nuance, give poise to every phrase and to set in proportion each stylistic trait according to her vision.