There’s no sweeter sound than Bach’s Cello Suites

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Istvan Vardai, a 32 year old Hungarian cellist, preformed in Jorgensen Theater Tuesday evening (Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

Once upon a time, the cello was used only as a constant baseline and backdrop for the other instruments in an orchestra. István Várdai proved this wrong a thousand times over with his performance of Bach’s cello suites in Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts this Tuesday.  

Hungarian cellist Istvan Várdai is an internationally famous cellist who has won many competitions with his talent, including the 63rd Geneva International Cello Competition in 2008 and the 13th International Brahms Competition. This week, he is performing Bach’s Suites for the Unaccompanied Cello, which have stood against the tests of time and remain untouchable works of art. 

Not only did Várdai’s skills and Bach’s masterpieces make this a show well worth attending, although that would have been enough, but the cello Várdai played is the oldest surviving Stradivarius cello, crafted in the 1673. Only 63 of the cellos produced exist today. 

This performance was part of the Lenard Chamber Series, which, thanks to John and Jean Lenard, allows students and youths from the area to attend chamber music events free of charge. Várdai’s performance in particular serves as a thank you to the Lenards. 

“John Lenard is Hungarian, so that is the Hungarian connection. We were very fortunate to have that opportunity, [Várdai] doesn’t perform in the U.S. that often, so it was a great opportunity,” said Rodney Rock, director of Jorgensen. 

Várdai gave a captivating performance. His love of the music and instrument was as apparent as his skill, allowing him to deliver moving music and engage the audience. 

It would take an incredible musician to make performing these pieces seem effortless, which Várdai was able to achieve. With no sheet music in sight, he played with surgical precision and created music that was shocking to hear coming from just one instrument. This made it as much a visual experience as an auditory one. Occasional whispers of amazement passed through the audience at Várdai’s speed and dexterity.  

“As a UConn student, I got into this performance for free. I think it’s a great opportunity for people our age to see something that might have been in an era before us, or generation before us. Looking around in the crowd, it seems like there were a lot of people who weren’t our age, but bringing this to UConn students will bring in light to the techniques of the past,” said Gabrielle Christofor, a second-semester exploratory major. 

This performance, and the Lenard series as a whole, allows incredible music from the past to connect with both the performers and audience members of today. These performances are now more accessible than ever, thanks to this series of shows. 

Seeing a show as unique as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Luckily, UConn students are offered this chance twice, not only in a lifetime, but in one week. To see the second half of Várdai’s performance, which will include Cello Suites Nos. 2, 4 and 6, students can come to Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday April 17 at 7:30 p.m. 


Meghan Shaw is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at meghan.n.shaw@uconn.edu.

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