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Janos Starker (1924 - 2013)

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.



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