Artistic Director

István Várdai

Although being a child of a family of musicians, none of them wanted meg to become a musician. But this kind of atmosphere, traditions and upbringing form a kind of commitment to music any way. I was able to take part in my mother's class at the Secondary School of Music in Pécs, which included accompanying other musicians on piano.

I was also at my father's numerous conducting and choir rehearsals, where I could get to know the human voice as an instrument. No wonder I preferred cello, as its sound and sound position are the closest to the one of the human voice. From deep bass to high soprano, it spans five or six octaves; the right hand and the string symbolize breathing, while strings are parallel to vocal cords.

Of course, this was quite an intuitive thing for me at the time. The person contributing the most to my falling in love with this instrument was my music schoolteacher, Mária Mátrai. She helped me experience the playfulness of music and helped to lay the foundation of the physical abilities and inner rules to play this great instrument.

I started playing music at the age of eight, and after winning a national competition at the age of eleven, I was admitted to the preparatory class of the Liszt Academy. After seven years, when winning an international competition, I felt like I was at a dead end: I suddenly did not get why I was doing all this. Looking back, I think I probably grew out of my medium by then, and the “solution” was to go to Vienna to study.

There, I found an exceptional teacher: Reinhard Latzko. Besides, I got admitted to a class that inspired me in an extraordinary way. Not necessarily because everyone would have been a cellist above the average, but because they were all extremely creative. The change of scenes did me good, and the competitions I prepare for there were real challenges for me. I met my last master, Frans Helmerson, at the Kronberg Academy, to where I was invited after a Japanese concert.

After three years, I graduated and stayed there to teach. I could teach the most skillful cellists in the world–which was not even really teaching, rather coaching or exchanging ideas. 


Music and existence are also kinds of vibration. After a while, I realized that through music, it is very easy to feel what life is about. I also discovered that every good music teacher is also a good person, because he or she was taught by music.
In Mannheim, I experienced what real teaching meant. It did not really work out at the end, as there was a huge gap between reality and my expectations. I felt if I stayed for a long time, I would pass on my frustration to my students.

The possibility of managing the cello department of the Vienna Academy of Music appealed to me as I thougt I would be able to work with outstanding, even Hungarian, cellists there.
However, my main profile to this day is still giving concerts. I took on the position of art directing the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra because in this role I can finally combine my experience as a teacher and an artist.

My goal for the orchestra, while keeping its traditions, to embark on a new direction responding to the challenges of the age and regain its previous position among orchestras around the world. What I can offer as a first step, is the vision that I think will be able to give create a new kind of motivation, inspiration, and commitment for the musicians. I also strive to awaken the special know-how the old-era orchestra used to add to their performance. I am sure that following this path we will be able to rediscover our excellence.

(Notes by Sarolta Gálfi /