Janos Starker Dies: Grammy Winning Cellist Was a Prodigy by Age 6

Image: Janos Starker Dies: Grammy Winning Cellist Was a Prodigy by Age 6 1957 photo of Janos Starker.

Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013 02:13 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Renowned, Grammy-winning cellist Janos Starker died Sunday at his Bloomington, Ind. home after suffering from declining health for years. He was 88.

Starker's death was announced by the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he had been a professor since 1958.

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The musician's cello seminars attracted students from all over the world, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"I personally cannot perform without teaching, and I cannot teach without performing," Starker told the Chicago Tribune in 1993. "When you have to explain what you are doing, you discover what you are really doing."

Born in Budapest, Hungary, Starker was a child prodigy who performed his first concert at the age of 6 and made his first solo debut at 11. Starker's remarkable abilities secured him a position as principal cellist of the Budapest Opera when he was only 15.

Starker, who was Jewish, was taken with his family to a German detention camp in 1945 when he was 21.

Both of his brothers were killed by a stray bomb from a U.S. plane, the Times reported.

Starker's survival at the detention center was reportedly largely because of his musical talent.

After the war, Starker relocated to the United States, where he served as principal cello for the Dallas Symphony. He went on to play for New York City's Metropolitan Opera before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953.

"His technique was impeccable and he produced an invariably refined sound," Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed said Sunday. "And yet he had depth of tone, an ability to give every note grave substance, which made him one of the rare musicians to find a way for beauty, grace and intensity to coexist, as if we lived in a world where they were all the same thing."

All Starker "has to do is touch bow to strings, and out pours an intensity of sound that immediately takes hold of one's senses," Chicago Tribune music critic John von Rhein wrote in 1993. "The spell is cast entirely through the music."

In 1997, Starker earned a Grammy Award for best instrumental solo performance for his recording of Bach cello suites.

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