Janos Starker, world-famous cellist, dies at 88


Janos Starker, a renowned concert cellist as well as a distinguished teacher and recording artist, has died. He was 88.

Starker, who died Sunday in Bloomington, Ind., had been in terminal care for the last few weeks, according to reports from wire services.

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie said Starker was “one of the greatest cellists who have ever lived” and “one of the university’s true artistic giants.”


Starker had played principal cello in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for five seasons during the 1950s and had been a professor at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music since 1958.

His cello seminars arttracted students from all over the world.

“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.”

Stoker had been a child prodigy in Hungary during the 1930s, giving his first public performance at age 6. By the time he was 8, he was teaching other children.

He left Hungary in 1946 and reached the United States in 1948. He served as principal cello for the Dallas Symphony and then the Metropolitan Opera before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953.

“Although less fiery and never a superstar, Janos Starker was, in many ways, the Jascha Heifetz of the cello,” Los Angeles Times Music Critic Mark Swed said Sunday. “His technique was impeccable and he produced an invariably refined sound. 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.”

Even after he began his teaching career, Starker kept performing, touring and recording. He recorded several albums, and his 1990 tribute to cellist and composer David Popper earned a Grammy nomination.


Chicago Tribune Music Critic John von Rhein wrote in 1993 that 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. And the spell is cast entirely through the music, for Starker in performance maintains a grave facial expression and little eye contact with his audience.

“It’s as if he were telling us, ‘Listen to what the music is saying; don’t watch me.’ We listen, we listen.”

Starker is survived by his wife, Raid, daughters Gwen Starker Preucil and Gabriella Starker-Saxe, and grandchildren Alexandra Preucil, Nicole Preucil and J.P. Saxe.


Review: Long Beach Symphony at the Terrace Theatre

Review: Jennifer Koh shows her own genius with Bach program

Southwest Museum’s prospects for festive 100th birthday are dim