“His playing was commendable for its fluidity and virtuosity, distinguished by both a fleet-fingered lightness and a rich timbre.”(Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times)
Artistic Director: Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra
István Várdai is highly regarded for his joyous energy, rhythmic vigour and elegant grace in his soulful renditions of solo, chamber music and orchestral repertoire for cello. In his third season as Artistic Director of Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, he continues to present inspiring and creative programmes. Alongside this, István welcomes world-renowned musicians at the Kapostfest Chamber Music Festival in Hungary, which he co-curates with violinist Kristóf Baráti, and continues his soloist career with leading orchestras performing repertoire from Bach to Péter Eötvös.
In 2022/23 István Várdai plays with Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra under Modestas Pitrėnas, Orchestre National du Capitole Toulouse under Domingo Hindoyan, Hungarian National Philharmonic and Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava under Lawrence Foster, as well as Liechstenstein and Bournemouth symphony orchestras. Past seasons’ highlights include engagements with Orchestre national d’Île-de-France with Case Scaglione, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra with Mark Wigglesworth, the Hallé with Jamie Phillipsand Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra with Susanna Mälkki.
István Várdai and Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra welcome violonists Akiko Suwanai, Liza Ferschtman, Luosha Fang, Júlia Pusker, pianists Gábor Farkas, Benjamin Grosvenor and the flautist Emmanuel Pahud in Budapest for FLCO’s series at the Grand Hall of the Liszt Academy.
As a passionate chamber musician, he has performed István Várdai has played with Víkingur Ólafsson, András Schiff, Yuri Bashmet, Gidon Kremer, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Mischa Maisky, Elisabeth Leonskaja and Liza Ferschtman at some of the world’s leading venues. In June 2023, he will play with Hugo Ticciati, Christoffer Sundqvist, Alasdair Beatson in variety of chamber music and orchestral programmes as part of O/Modernt’s Summer Festival in Stockholm.
Over the years, István Várdai’s has recorded Janáček, Prokofiev and Elgar’s cello concertos on Ysaÿe Records, pieces by Mendelssohn, Martinů, Paganini, Beethoven and Popper on Hännsler label, Tchaïkovsky’s Rococo Variations in both versions and Bach’s solo cello suites on Brilliant Classics, Singing Cello and Dancing Cello on Hungaroton label that features famous encores and a compilation of popular cello pieces of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Following success on the competitions circuit, including first prizes at the 2014 ARD International Music Competition and at the 2008 Geneva International Music Competition, István Várdai served on the jury of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2019. He has been teaching at University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna where he succeeded the late Heinrich Schiff in the role, and where he himself studied in 2005. István Várdai plays on ‘Ex du Pré-Harrell’ Stradivari made in 1673, previously played by Jacqueline du Pré.
“The solo part has often been declared unplayable, and so it is, except in the case of an artist so prodigiously gifted as Várdai, who delivered the greatest performance in a concerto I have ever witnessed. His virtuosity at the cello defied belief, and left the audience rubbing its eyes and shaking its heads in wonder. Difficulties were not overcome, they were atomized. He negotiated Prokofiev’s extravagant demands with careless ease, never losing his focus on the emotional and intellectual purpose of the music. As thrilling as his execution was of the work’s many virtuoso passages, it was his rendition of the rapturous lyricism at the heart of the second movement that sticks most stubbornly in the memory, never to be dislodged.”
“This latest recital (in the Utzon chamber music series) was as much about the instrument as the brilliant cellist playing it. […] For the Bach suite Várdai’s natural style, impeccable intonation and beauty of line brought out all the playful nuances… An artist from whom we shall be hearing a great deal more.”
“Where other cellists might struggle with the low writing, as on the sustained pedal notes of the Prelude, Várdai’s tone glowed with oaky complexity.”
“His performance was a knockout punch for a hometown hero as much as for the unveiling of a precious instrument with an illustrious provenance.”
“his playing is very modern, yet it still conjures up a link to old world traditions.”
“he showed exceptional dexterity in the suites of Bach”
“His playing was commendable for its fluidity and virtuosity, distinguished by both a fleet-fingered lightness and a rich timbre.”