Music: Cloudborne Cellist

Music: Cloudborne Cellist
Among musicians, cellists are known as incurable sentimentalists. This
quality is half-humorously assumed, partly because of the tightlipped,
tear-laden whine the instrument so easily develops in its upper
register, partly because of the overenthusiastic use of that register
by romantic composers. One cellist who does not deserve the description
is the Chicago Symphony's Budapest-born Janos Starker, 31, who is
unsentimentally aware that he is one of the world's finest cellists. He also knows why he gets so few chances to prove it to the public.
“Concert managers tell you the cello is a little-liked instrument,” he
says. Then he explains: “The cello is about a century behind the
violin. Paganini [1782-1840] was the turning point in the violin, 100
years before Pablo Casals [born 1876] who was the turning point in the cello.”
Those 100 years. Starker points out, enclose most of the great
composers. Since they wrote relatively little music for the cello
virtuoso, he reasons, the cello is an unfamiliar solo instrument to the
public. Tense & Silken. Moreover. Starker thinks, the instrument is not entirely
familiar to the men who play it. “In cello playing, the accepted
standards are lower than with the violin. Basic under standing of the
instrument is not developed. Players may know how to go from one place
to another, but not why it is difficult to do so, or how to do it
better.” To improve this situation, Cellist Starker hopes to start a
professional school for string players, teaches cello privately, and
travels among U.S. community orchestras as string consultant.
Meanwhile, he plays solo whenever he gets the chance. Last week, with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, Janos Starker
played a piece that might reduce many a strong man to
sentimentality—Schumann's Cello Concerto. Under the pale lights,
Starker's sunken cheeks looked drained of blood as he bent to the
romantic work, but he never bowed to its maudlin potentialities. His
tone was neither too plump nor too lean, but pure, tense and silken. He
sculpted the long, melodic lines precisely, restraining himself where a
lesser musician might have whipped up some phony passion, then letting
his instrument sing passionately, when passion was called for. Next day
Critic Roger Dettmer wrote in the American that Starker “has grown from
an important cellist to an incomparable one,” and the rest of the press
gave echo. Open & Informed. Cellist Starker has been called one of the greatest
ever since he was 14. When he left Hungary after World War II , other European critics also raved. After he
reached the U.S. in 1948, he first landed a job with the Dallas
Symphony and soon after with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. U.S.
critics discovered his excellence on records . He was the only
principal player Conductor Reiner, a fellow Hungarian, took with him
when he moved from the Met to the Chicago Symphony three years ago.