István Várdai


“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.” (The Spokesman, 2019)


“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)

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 2023/24 István Várdai returns to Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra for concerts in Helsinki and on tour in Amsterdam, and to Bournemouth and BBC symphony orchestras in the UK. Debut highlights include SWR under Patrick Hahn with Bloch’s Schelomo. Past season’s highlights include dates 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 Symphony Orchestra and Prague Philharmonia.

István Várdai and Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra welcome Andreas and Daniel Ottensamer, Sunwook Kim and Leticia Moreno in Budapest for FLCO’s series at the Grand Hall of the Liszt Academy. International tours take them to Romania for the Enescu Festival and to Slovenia with Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Swtizerland, Germany, Spain, Chile, Brazil and Turkey. Istvan Vardai conducts the orchestra in variety of programmes from Ligeti to Beethoven piano concertos.

As a passionate chamber musician, István Várdai has played with Vikingur Olaffson, András Schiff, Yuri Bashmet, Gidon Kremer, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Mischa Maisky, Elisabeth Leonskaja and Liza Ferschtman at some of the world’s leading venus. Istvan Vardai, Alexei Volodin and Eldbjorg Hemsing team up for trio concerts including dates at Heidelberg Spring Festival and Wigmore Hall in London.

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.

Gallery / István Várdai

Istv+ín V+írdai110 © Marco Borggreve Istv+ín V+írdai091 © Marco Borggreve Istv+ín V+írdai096 © Marco Borggreve