The Hungarian pianist and tacher, Ilona Kabos, studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music under Arpad Szendy (a pupil of Franz Liszt), Leó Weiner and Zoltán Kodály, and in 1915 she won the Liszt Prize.
In the early part of her career, Ilona Kabos played for Ferruccio Busoni, who also played for her. At 16, she made her debut in Budapest and subsequently toured throughouit Europ, eventually gaining a fine reoputation as an interpreter of contempoorary music. She gaver a number of premiere performances of works by such composers as Z. Kodály, Leó Weiner, Béla Bartók, Luigi Dallapiccola, Roy Harris, Carlos Chávez and Mátyás Seiber. She made her American debut in 1951. She taught at the Royal Budapest Academy of Music from 1930 through 1936.
In 1931, Ilona Kabos married her fellow Hungarian pianist Louis Kentner, and they made their home in London. It is claimed that her pianism was superior to that of his. In November 1942, Kabos and Kentner gave the world premiere of B. Bartók's Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra in London. She premiered Robert Crawford's Six Bagatelles, Op. 3 (1948). Her marriage ended in 1945, when Kentner left her for Griselda Gould (daughter of the British pianist Evelyn Suart, and the sister of the ballerina Diana Gould, who was Yehudi Menuhin's second wife).
Ilona Kabos's greatest legacy is as a teacher of other pianists. She gave master-classes, and taught both privately and at institutions such as Dartington Summer School and the Juilliard School (from 1965, at the express invitation of Peter Mennin; Kabos and Rosina Lhévinne often exchanged students). Her better-known students include: Susan Alexander-Max, David Bollard, Robert Cuckson, Monte Hill Davis, Norma Fisher, Peter Frankl, Joan Havill, Niel Immelman, William Corbett-Jones, Joseph Kalichstein, David Oei, John Ogdon, Denver Oldham, Kun-Woo Paik, Alberto Portugheis, Staffan Scheja, Craig Sheppard, Roberto Szidon and Alan Weiss. Other students included: Paul Burke, Nigel Coxe, David-Michael Dunbar, Marilyn Engle, Meira Farkas, Jonathan Miles Freeman, Otto Freudenthal, Nancy Burton Garrett, Derek Han, Robin Harrison, Emanuel Krasovsky, Risto Lauriala, Mari-Elizabeth Morgen, Dana Muller, Thalia Myers, Marios Papadopoulos, Joel Sachs, Jeffrey Siegel, Sérgio Varella-Cid, and Veda Zuponcic. Her teaching method included scribbling on the music during her lessons. She was given to writing "bold directions in red crayon, right across the page, in huge letters, gratuitous slashes". The crayon was actually a china marker, wrapped in paper.
Ilona Kabos's died in London in 1973, aged 79. A hostel for Ilona Kabos's students was established in Finchley, North London, by Charles Napper. Tributes: The Inventions, Op. 2, are a set of piano pieces by André Tchaikowsky; each invention is a musical portrait of a friend or colleague of André Tchaikowsky's, and No. 3 was subtitled To Ilona Kabos; In 1968 Serge Tcherepnin wrote a piano piece for her, called simply For Ilona Kabos.
Ilona Kabos made very few recordings. They include: a record of a 1952 New York Town Hall concert, with works by: F. Liszt (Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, S. 180; and excerpts from Weihnachtsbaum, S. 186), and B. Bartók (Three Rondos, Sz84; Sonatina, Sz55; For Children, Sz42); F. Liszt's Gnomenreigen (live, Budapest, 1956); Sir Michael Tippett's Piano Concerto (BBC; undated); J.S. Bach: Concerto in C major for Two Claviers, BWV 1061 (with Gina Bachauer). She was also the musical advisor for a number of films: Murder in the Cathedral (1951), The Fake (1953), The Diamond (1954), Jet Storm (1959), and The Hands of Orlac (1960).