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Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Linda Cajigas
Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Sunday, April 28, 2013

IU community mourns passing of Distinguished Professor, cellist Janos Starker

April 28, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University and Jacobs School of Music community mourns the passing today of Distinguished Professor of Music and Grammy Award-winning cellist Janos Starker.

Starker, 88, died on April 28, 2013.

"All of us at Indiana University are deeply saddened by the passing of Janos Starker, one of the greatest cellists to have ever lived and one of the university's true artistic giants. His was an extraordinary career, encompassing performances with the world's most prestigious orchestras, solo concerts and numerous award-winning recordings, all of which were marked with a legendary virtuosity that will be analyzed and appreciated for years to come," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "Few performers achieve the kind of technical mastery, innovation and scintillating stage presence that defined Professor Starker, who will always be loved and admired for his willingness to share his tremendous talent and remarkable personal story with generations of aspiring musicians who received their musical training with him at IU's internationally renowned Jacobs School of Music. Indiana University was truly fortunate to be the teaching home for this larger-than-life figure who captivated and inspired all of us, musicians and non-musicians alike, with his beautiful music, intense dedication to his craft and relentless pursuit of excellence. He will be greatly missed, and our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and many colleagues here and around the world."

With his peerless technical mastery and intensely expressive playing, he is universally recognized as having been one of the world's preeminent musicians. During the course of his career, he appeared as recitalist and soloist with the most prestigious orchestras around the globe and became one of the most sought-after virtuosi and teachers of our time.

Starker was born to Jewish parents in Budapest, Hungary, on July 5, 1924. His father was a tailor.

His two older brothers were violinists, and he was given a cello before his sixth birthday. A child prodigy, Starker gave his first public performance at age six. He entered the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest and made his debut there at age 11, giving his professional debut at 14.

Starker spent three months in a Nazi concentration camp. His parents also survived the camps, but his two brothers died.

In 1946, he worked as an electrician and a sulfur miner en route to Paris.

Starker made his first recording in 1947, a sonata by the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. It won a Grand Prix du Disque and brought him early international fame.

He immigrated to the United States in 1948 and played for the Dallas Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chicago Symphony before becoming a full-time concert soloist and teacher when he joined the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 1958.

Eventually earning the title of Distinguished Professor, his classes attracted string players from around the world, and he continued to teach until close to his death.

In 1979, Starker established the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center at Indiana University, honoring and fostering a comradeship amongst cellists in the world in the 30 years of the center's existence.

Starker was the first recipient of the Tracy M. Sonneborn Award, an honor given by the university to a faculty member who has achieved distinction both as a teacher and as a performing artist.

He held five honorary doctorates, including one from the New England Conservatory in 2006. In 2009, he received the title of Honorary Professor of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.

Highlights of his later career included a return visit to Tokyo and Hong Kong for recitals, master classes and performances of the Elgar Concerto with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, appearances at New York's 92nd Street Y and a tribute organized by the La Jolla Chamber Music Society, in which he was honored with two sold-out concerts.

He performed a special concert at the Kennedy Center celebrating his native Hungary and appeared with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, New Haven Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Seattle Symphony and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.

In New York, Starker performed in a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, appeared with the New York Chamber Symphony at Lincoln Center and featured the complete Beethoven works for cello and piano as well as all Bach suites for unaccompanied cello.

The cellist amassed an extensive discography of more than 165 works.

Releases on BMG's RCA Victor Red Seal label include the version for cello of Bartók's "Viola Concerto," Dvorák's "Cello Concerto" and Richard Strauss' "Don Quixote."

Other recordings are concertos by Hindemith, Schumann, Elgar and Walton, and Schumann's "Adagio and Allegro" and "Fantaisiestücke" as well as sonatas by Brahms, Debussy, Martinu and Rachmaninoff.

Additional releases can be found on Angel, CRI, Delos, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, London, Mercury, Philips, Seraphim and other labels worldwide.

He re-recorded the Bach suites for BMG's RCA Victor Red Seal label, a release which won a 1997 Grammy Award for best instrumental soloist performance (without orchestra).

The author of "An Organized Method of String Playing," Starker was the inventor of a bridge designed to enhance the acoustical properties of stringed instruments.

His memoir, "The World of Music According to Starker," was published in 2004 by Indiana University Press.

"Janos Starker, King of Cellists: The Making of an Artist" was published in 2008 by CMP Publishing.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Sandor and Margit, and his older brothers, Tibor and Ede.

Starker is survived by his wife, Rae; daughter Gwen Starker Preucil; daughter from his first marriage, Gabriella Starker-Saxe; and grandchildren Alexandra Preucil, Nicole Preucil and J. P. Saxe.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the Starker Research Institute and Archives, P.O. Box 5462, Bloomington, Ind., 47407.

The Jacobs School of Music has created a memorial site online for Starker.