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LACA Concert An Experience To Remember

on January 29, 2018 - 12:49pm
István Várdai. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos

Bringing back István Várdai for the Jan. 21 Los Alamos Concert Association's  cello concert with pianist Shai Wosner provided the audience with a thrilling afternoon. Their choice of works gave us the opportunity to hear wonderful compostitions that are rarely heard. Works by Eastern European composers, Kodály’s Sonatina and Janácek’s Pohadka, are pieces that we have probably not heard before.

My earliest memory of an outstanding cellist in performance is Antonio Janigro with the band that he created in Zagreb, I Solisti di Zagreb, in the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union Theater ca. 1961. Janigro had previously teamed with pianist Paul Badura-Skoda, who was an artist-in-residence at the University in the 1960s, for performing and recording cello-piano compositions. Janigro is on every list of the all-time greatest cello artists. The Los Alamos Concert Association brought Janigro to Los Alamos in 1961 and Badura-Skoda in 1956.

During the concert, I was so impressed by Várdai that I would nominate him for entry into the pantheon of great cellists. When I looked online at several lists, he has yet to be thus recognized. The first cello-piano duo which I heard in a LACA concert was in 1991 when Carter Brey and Christopher O’Riley thrilled me with their performances. Brey is still principal cellist with the NY Philharmonic, and O’Riley is heard weekly on KHFM with the program of young performers called “From the Top”.

I listened to an interview of Várdai on the NYPC radio podcast. He said that when he first began playing the cello he was coached to play with making sounds, and I immediately thought of the amazing sounds that he produced on Sunday. He also said that because he embraces the cello while playing he feels the vibrations, and that sensation is addictive. That idea brings to mind Dame Evelyn Glennie feeling the music, and that Várdai is probably able to strike the emotional content of his performances by the vibrations he feels.

Thank you to Ann McLaughlin and the Los Los Alamos Concert Association  for your programming the cream of the crop of musicians. And for the memory from Sunday that I will share with my friends and family that I heard the great cellist Várdai way back when he was just 32 years old playing the “Jacquelyn Du Pré – Lynn Harrell” 1673 Stradivarius cello.