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Janos Starker

      . . . internationally acclaimed cellist. Born in Budapest, Mr. Starkerās honors stretch from winning the Grand Prix du Disque in Europe in 1948 to his Grammy in 1998. Principal cellist under Fritz Reiner at both the Metropolitan Opera and the Chicago Symphony, Mr. Starker has performed with every major orchestra and in recitals worldwide.  He has recorded extensively and is a Distinguished Professor at Indiana University, where his students include top string players from around the world. His writings include An Organized Method of Playing. Bloomington, Indiana, is his home.


Think classical music is a thing of the past? Think again. Classical music is alive and well and getting stronger all the time, according world renowned cellist, Janos Starker. Mr. Starkerās position as an enduring giant of the music world lends weight to his optimism. Besides, he says, he's fortified by the strongest tribe in the world -- people who believe in classical music.

Mr. Starker's international recognition stretches from his days as a child prodigy in Budapest to his 1948 Grand Prix du Disque to his 1998 Grammy for his latest recording of the Bach Suites for Cello. It continues today on the world's concert stages, in festivals and cello congresses and in his world-renowned seminars. It's not the number of people who benefit from appreciating classical music that counts, Mr. Starker assures us. It's the ideal realism that springs from living a life with, in and around music. Mr. Starker and his students' cause? To bring beauty, decency, purity and simplicity in music for those who perceive it. And they're working to increase the number

Sure, there have been troubles in the past decades, in large measure, Mr. Starker believes, because the supply of extraordinarily well trained musicians was fostered in America and Europe without simultaneously increasing the demand. But this will work itself out, Mr. Starker is confident. Some of Mr. Starker's optimism is based on the growing pool of people learning the value of classical music. And parents are beginning to recognize that music education -- especially teaching children to sing -- is vital.

Besides, not everyone wants or needs classical music. Those like Mr. Starker can't live without it, of course. But he is confident classical music will play its important role in the world with only a small percentage of people fully enjoying its riches.

Can Mozart, Bach, and Brahms, change the world? Wrong question. The point is to increase those who appreciate such masters. That starts with professional musicians, people who can perform at a very high level no matter what their personal circumstance. Amateurs and dilettantes have an role, but it's the professional you want on a sustained basis. And Mr. Starker is legendary for training professionals. In addition to his extraordinary performing and recording career, he is a Distinguished Professor at the world famous Music School at Indiana University. He's a wizard at spotting a musician's weaknesses and knowing the solution. In the end, Mr. Starker's role as teacher is far more important to him than the standing ovations and the admiration of audiences and colleagues alike.

What does classical music have to do with life? Begin with discipline. Cherish beauty and balance. Seek to create and preserve purity and simplicity. Whether our goals are timeless or timely, musical or mundane, Ideal Realism shines worthy lights on us all, whatever path we follow.

[This Program was recorded March 7, 1999, in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.]

Conversation 1

Janos Starker tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell why it is vital that classical music -- one of the few permanent values in human existence -- be available to humankind. He describes how all-consuming music is for musicians. He suggests where musicians can provide leadership. Mr. Starker explains why his group learning sessions are seminars, not master classes, and describes the central role observers play there. He names some of the many elements of this process, including the audience.


Conversation 2


Mr. Starker continues exploring the role of the audience in music making. He describes what needs to be considered and addressed before a musician makes the first sound, codified in his An Organized Method of Playing.  He describes his unique teaching approach, based on isolating elements which need improvement. He discusses the importance of helping people become professionals and describes how he does that. He explains why it is important for a professional to know WHY he or she performs well or poorly. Mr. Starker comments on the audition process required at great musical institutions. He explains why he picks people who have basic talents which have not yet fully emerged. ŹHe discusses the phenomenon of child prodigies and tells why his experience being one is different from most. He distinguishes between professionals, amateurs and dilettantes.


Conversation 3

Professionalism is discussed, building on one of Mr. Starker's short stories. He describes some of the rules and laws governing music making. He explains how popular music delights people by violating these rules. He distinguishes the merits of entertainment and popular music from the requirements for classical music. He suggests that one's whole brain (neither the right nor left brain) is engaged in music. He explains why, as a musician, he chooses to express his poetry in music rather than in poetic words. He shows how this attitude informs his teaching. He acknowledges learning much of this from the techniques of some of the worldās great conductors and gives examples of some of the many answers available for problem solving.


Conversation 4

Mr. Starker explains why he is not in the least frustrated by the theatrics of some of his younger colleagues. He distinguishes his views as a teacher from those he holds as a performer. He describes The Cause he and his students promote -- to bring beauty and decency, purity and simplicity in music for those who perceive it, working to increase that number. Mr. Starker explains the central role of discipline in achieving musical freedom. He suggests what a professional might do on an "off" night. He describes how the re-creative artist brings the message of the composer to the public. Mr. Starker advances his opinion on whether a musician should play with or without a score and recalls Fritz Reinerās position on this. Mr. Starker explains what improvisation is and is not, what happens when an orchestra does or does not play beautifully. He describes the language of music. He differentiates teachers from coaches and describes what he thinks is appropriate in performing Baroque music.


Conversation 5

Mr. Starker distinguishes the most famous musicians (definable) from the greatest ones (subjective and impossible to name). He explains why teaching is more important to him that his fame as a performer. He traces his own musical genealogy. He explains his ideas about Ideal Realism. He explains his optimism about the future of music, but expresses concern about the current oversupply of musicians, created without increasing the demand. He makes a strong plea for music education, confident that overall, music is doing well and the performing arts even better. He points to where he expects to see growth among music lovers. He applauds how the Suzuki method involved entire families in music, and suggests where potential listeners are to be found.


Conversation 6

Mr. Starker describes the influence great singers have had in helping him shape his sounds. Mr. Starker explains why teaching children to sing may be even more important than instrumental education. He offers a glimpse of how important music is to him and might be to a large part of humanity. He salutes the strongest tribe in the world -- those who believe in classical music.




Janos Starker won a Grammy in 1998 for his Bach Suites for Cello -- the same music which is his gift to us and to you on this Show.

Mr. Starker is known to the world as a member of the Golden Class of music makers in this century. He is known to his friends as an exemplar of that precious category. We join Mr. Starkerās friends, admirers and students around the world in wishing him all the joys that life can bring on this, his 75th birthday. And we thank him. For everything.

We also thank Rae Starker for her hospitality on this visit and over the years.


Related Links:
Janos Starker's tour schedule, biographies and interviews, his (extensive!) discography and RealAudio selections, as well as a link to Mr. Starker's personal representative are available here.
Janos Starker & Paula Gordon photo
Paula and Prof. Starker continue the conversation.

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