Janos Starker dies: Leaves legacy as Grammy-winning cellist

Janos Starker dies: A renowned cellist, Janos Starker survived a Nazi concentration camp and became a world-class musician and teacher.

Grammy Award-winning cellist Janos Starker has died after months of declining health. He was 88.

Alain Barker, a spokesman for the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, said Starker died Sunday at his Bloomington home in the presence of family members.

Starker won a 1997 Grammy Award for best instrumental solo performance for a recording of Bach cello suites.

Starker made his professional debut at 14. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1948 and played for the Dallas Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chicago Symphony before joining Indiana University in 1958.

In an NPR rememberance, Starker said teaching was his calling.

"I've been caught confessing that basically I was born to be a teacher," he said. "People question the validity of it, because I played all those 3, 4, 5,000 concerts in my life. But the fact is, I think I was put on earth to be a teacher."

The New York Times wrote of Starker: "The chief hallmark of his playing was a conspicuous lack of schmaltz. Effusive sentiment is an inherent risk of the cello, with its thundering sonorities and timbre so like the human voice. He also shunned the dramatic head tossing and body swaying to which many cellists incline.... Unlike many acclaimed string players, Mr. Starker used a lean, judicious vibrato — the minute, rapid variations in pitch by the left hand that can enrich a note’s sound but can also border on the histrionic. Excessive vibrato, he said, was like “a woman smearing her whole face with lipstick.”

He was born to Jewish parents in Budapest on July 5, 1924, and spent three months in Nazi concentration camps.

Survivors include his wife, Rae, and two daughters.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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