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JANOS STARKER

János Starker, born to a father of Polish descent and a Ukrainian mother, gave his first performances at the age of six. Two years later he engaged in his first teaching activities, demonstrating enormous
precocity, and had five pupils by the age of twelve. At fourteen he gave his professional debut playing the Dvořák Concerto, deputising at just three hours’ notice. He attended the Liszt Academy from the age of eleven to study with Adolf Schiffer (a pupil and successor of Popper), and cited as strong influences Leo Weiner, Zoltán Kodály, Béla Bartók and Ernő Dohnányi, who all taught there. Starker left the Academy as World War II broke out and spent three months in a Nazi camp, but avoided being pressed into hard labour and survived, unlike his two violinist brothers.

After the war Starker took up a succession of principal cello roles, initially with the Budapest Opera and Philharmonic Orchestras, moving briefly to Vienna in 1946 to prepare for the Geneva Cello Competition which he lost, rather ironically, to his pupil Eva Janzer. Around this time he underwent a process of re-evaluating and rebuilding his technique, much like Menuhin whom he had seen in concert whilst the latter was in his darkest period of self-doubt. One product of Starker’s reflections was An Organized Method of String Playing, a programme which he taught around the world from 1955 onwards and published in 1965, in which he laid out every element of technique and physical preparation in great detail.

After spending a year in Paris (where he mastered Kodály’s supremely difficult Op. 8 Sonata for which he won the Grand Prix du Disque) Starker entered the United States in 1948 and took up a succession of orchestral posts, later moving to Indiana University and restarting his solo career in the late-1950s. He subsequently became one of the most recorded artists in the world, his discography spanning virtually the entire cello literature, including several issues of the Bach Cello Suites—initially Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 6 during 1950–1952, and complete sets on four further occasions. A number of composers wrote for him including Miklós Rózsa, Jean Martinon and Bernhard Heiden. In the last decade or so of his life Starker concentrated more upon teaching; his students included Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and Maria Kliegel.

In all repertoire Starker’s sound is characterised by a clear tone and an almost encyclopedic technical mastery, which has been the subject of a number of television documentaries and magazine articles. Like many other modern players he eschewed audible shifting, but also avoided wide vibrato (which he saw as a cover for poor intonation); the result was a restrained yet engaging sound. Arguably, some of his high-register playing can sound strained (as in the C.P.E. Bach concerto here from 1996), but this is a minor cavil. His recordings include a reflective Kodály Op. 4 Sonata (1952), some stylish Haydn from 1987 and an almost objective approach to the heartfelt but introspective Hovhaness and Prokofiev works (1999 and 1956 respectively), whilst David Diamond’s Kaddish (1991) shows his more overtly impassioned side. Although his playing of eighteenth-century music may seem old-fashioned to ears now attuned to historically-informed practices, his 1988 Popper performances are superbly crafted, displaying his bullet-proof technical equipment. Starker’s playing is difficult to epitomise, perhaps one of the highest compliments that can be paid to an intelligent and sensitive musical artist.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)


Albums featuring this artist are available for download from ClassicsOnline.com
View by Role: Classical Artist | Arranger
Role: Classical Artist 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
40 TRACKS FOR 40 YEARS - Delos' 40th Anniversary Celebration Delos
DE3440
Instrumental
A TO Z OF STRING PLAYERS Naxos Educational
8.558081-84
Concertos
BABY NEEDS BEAUTY Delos
DE1622
Concertos
BOCCHERINI, L.: String Quintet, Op. 42, No. 2 / SCHUBERT, F.: String Quintet in C Major, Op. 163 (Janos Starker Celebration) Delos
DE3344
Chamber Music
CLASSICAL MUSIC FOR YOU AND YOUR DOG - A Day in the Life of Lucky Delos
DE1617
Concertos
COCKTAIL CLASSICS Delos
DE1611
Chamber Music
COPLAND, A.: Pastorale / LOEWE, F.: Before I Gaze at You Again / POPPER, D.: Nocturne / CHOPIN, F.: Nocturne No. 8 (Intimate Encounters) Delos
DE3505
Chamber Music
DIAMOND: Symphony No. 3 / Psalm / Kaddish Naxos
8.559155
Orchestral
ENGINEER'S CHOICE Delos
DE3506
Chamber Music
EXPLORE AMERICA Naxos
8.559187
Concertos
HAYDN, F.J.: Symphonies Nos. 61 and 103 / Cello Concerto No. 2 (Starker, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Schwarz) Delos
DE3063
Concertos
HAYDN, J.: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 (Starker) Delos
DE3341
Concertos
HAYDN, J.: Symphonies Nos. 21 and 96 / Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major (Starker, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Schwarz) Delos
DE3062
Concertos
HOVHANESS: Symphony No. 22 / Cello Concerto Naxos
8.559158
Concertos
KODALY, Z.: Cello Sonata / Duo / BOTTERMUND, H.: Variations on a theme by Paganini (Starker Plays Kodaly) (Starker, Gingold) Delos
DE1015
Chamber Music, Instrumental
KODALY, Z.: Hary Janos Suite / Dances of Galanta / DOHNANYI, E.: Konzertstuck (Starker, Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) Naxos
8.572749
Concertos
MENNIN: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 / Cello Concerto First Edition
FECD-0013
Concertos
Music for Kids CD 3: Songs to Sing Naxos Educational
8.558016
Music Education
MYSTERY CLASSICS - Curl up with the Classics Delos
DE1601
Orchestral
POPPER, D.: Cello Music (Romantic Cello Favorites) (Starker) Delos
DE3065
Chamber Music
PROKOFIEV, S.: Violin Concerto No. 2 / BARTOK, B.: Viola Concerto / VIVALDI, A.: Concerto for 2 Cellos in G Minor (Brazilian Festival '88) Delos
DE1018
Concertos
ROMANCE CLASSICS Delos
DE1602
Concertos
SERENE JOURNEYS THROUGH CLASSICAL MUSIC Delos
DE1608
Concertos
SYMPHONIC SOUND STAGE, Vol. 1 Delos
DE3502
Concertos
SYMPHONIC SOUND STAGE, Vol. 2 Delos
DE3504
Orchestral
VILLA-LOBOS, H.: Choros No. 8 / Fantasia / Uirapuru / NOBRE, M.: Convergencias (Brazil '88 - A Brazilian Music Extravanganza) (Carvalho) Delos
DE1017
Orchestral

Role: Arranger 
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