During the period of 1963 to 1967, this reviewer was fortunate to attend the largest and arguably best music school in the United States , concentrating in vocal music. The educational atmosphere there was incredible with genius level students and faculty abounding. Music School Dean, Wilford Bain, had put together a faculty team of some of the topmost musicians in the world. Yet, most were some of the top music teachers as well. One of these super performers who arrived on the Indiana University scene a year before I attended was the cellist János Starker, whom I knew informally and by reputation. This musician is considered to be an almost super human professional with enormous teaching loads and world performance schedules that would reduce most peers to tears. This biography does an excellent job of explaining Starker's roots and career and the important influences on him. The author not only defines his many skills and attributes, but she also explains how and why he is the performer and teacher he is. His history traces him from a Russian tailor father and uneducated Ukrainian mother to Hungary where the family became literally citizens without a country, with no official documentation or recognition. From his childhood prodigy days through his survival of a World War II labor camp and American carpet bombing, he managed to survive and thrive after the war. He not only developed his own skills, but also managed to become a keen analyst of players' physical and emotional problems and knowing how to correct them on the spot with lasting results. The tales of his skill, stamina, strength, memorization skills, and musicality are mind-boggling. Dr. Geeting explains why she chose Starker as her subject for this book, since he obviously impressed her the most of the five. She goes behind his sternly severe public mask to an inner core of genuine love for his fellow man. Her portrayal of Starker's personality, his many almost James Bond-like experiences dealing with bureaucrats on both sides of the Iron Curtain, his uncompromising personal and musical standards of behavior and performance, and his courage to outspokenly give his opinion of sacred cow institutions and performers who just don't measure up provides the reader with a clear picture of who and why this incredible man is. As a lovely bonus, the author includes a musical CD of her own cello performance skills which are smooth as silk. Dr. Geeting proves As a lovely bonus, the author includes a musical CD of her own cello performance skills which are smooth as silk. Dr. Geeting proves the horrendous stresses of this career field, the massive amount of dedicated work it demands, and the abilities such people are she knows whereof she speaks about cellists and the competitive classical music scene. She takes us behind the scenes to discover blessed with that place them on pedestals high above the general population. She truly opens a doorway into a world that few people even know exists. János Starker personifies a heroic image of those who compete, win, and leave their competitors in the dust. Dr Joyce Geeting communicates this phenomenon in a cogent, fascinating manner. Her biography should be a fascinating read for both those people in the business and those who are aficionados or who are contemplating entering this career field. We rated this fascinating, truthful work five hearts.
Review by Bob Spear
Hearland Reviews, of Joyce Geeting's "Janos Starker: King of Cellists."
I don't know how many musicians there are in each category of instrument, but I would venture to say that the number of cellists pales compared to guitar strummers, piano plunkers, drum beaters and violin scratchers. Still, those who play the cello and those who love the sound are dedicated and honest in their art. Starker is said to have made the greatest impact on the world of cello playing in the history of the instrument. Known as a private man, he touched the lives of cellists worldwide, and taught thousands of students. In addition to Geeting's writings, Starker and others contributed to the tome. One example of Starker's comments: "There was a class of music aesthetics in the Franz Liszt Academy where I received my music education. The teacher was dry and boring, so I dropped the class. At the age of fifteen I dropped out of the Academy when my cello teacher retired and the political winds were against people like myself. I never graduated but was celebrated moderately, first as a prodigy, then as a professional. However, I continued to learn from chamber music teachers, private tutors, composers and the like. Some taught me to hear, some stressed the sanctity of the composer's wishes, some stressed individuality but with discipline." A great book of musical history and biography.