Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, cellist Janos Starker displayed a talent for musical interpretation that brought him recognition as one of the finest virtuosos of his time. In 1957 connoisseurs and critics concurred that his recording of the complete Bach cello suites established a new standard of performance for those pieces. Later, in March of 1995, a semi-retired Starker put to tape his fifth separate recording of the Bach suites, an unprecedented feat for any string player. He further upheld an undying devotion to music education and brought a new modesty to the classical musician’s art with his confident yet unassuming stance during performance.
Janos Starker, the son of Sandor and Margit Starker, was born on July 5, 1924. He was one of three brothers and the only one of the siblings to survive the Second World War. Cello lessons began at age six for Starker, and he performed his first public concert by the age of ten. Already by that time Starker had become engrossed not only in playing his instrument, but also in teaching others. His devotion to helping others to learn to play was a trait that he would carry throughout his lifetime.
In the earliest days of his career, Starker played with the Budapest Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra as principal cellist until 1946. That year he moved to Paris, France, where he worked as a soloist, dividing his time between concert performances and studio recording sessions until 1948. It was in Paris that he completed the world premiere recording of the unaccompanied Sonata Suite by Zoltan Kodaly. The suite, which had been attempted by a meager few cellists, came alive under Starker’s bow, and his interpretation of the work earned him a Grand Prix du Disque in 1948 at age 24.