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Byron Janis II: Great Pianists Of the 20th Century, Vol. 51

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 20, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

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The gold-fingered Byron Janis is often mentioned in the same context as the other young American lions in an era of cold war cultural competition, Van Cliburn and William Kapell. This anthology gives you a good sense of what it was that made Janis in particular so exciting during his vintage years in the early '60s (before the arthritis that derailed his career had struck, and from which he has attempted a recent comeback). Janis had a voracious appetite for taking risks, perhaps a part of the legacy of his one-on-one study with Vladimir Horowitz--but it's a kind of risk taking that is all his own and makes the concertos performed under Kiril Kondrashin (from a famous Moscow concert in 1962) pulse with discovery and excitement. He tears fearlessly into the "martial" finale of the Liszt Concerto No. 1 but also contributes buoyant high spirits. Against much subsequent competition, this account of Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto--a piece used in the Richard Dreyfuss film The Competition--still amazes for its unerring sense of direction that still finds room for the composer's contradictory moods. Instead of reducing to acidic attitude and motoric machismo, Janis (obviously inspired by the white-hot input from the Moscow Philharmonic and Kondrashin) offers a wealth of textures and colorings, as well as much warmth. A more unabashedly romantic artist is at work in the First Piano Concerto of Rachmaninoff, which gets a dusting off and is presented with passionate conviction--wonderfully complementing Janis's rich account of the more-familiar Second Piano Concerto (listen to how much he packs into his build of the opening parade of sustained chords), where you shouldn't let yourself be off put by some of the strings' frayed intonation. Solo pieces here are a mesmerizing, knock-out early Prokofiev Toccata and a deeply personal bit from a Schumann rarity (the variations from the Piano Sonata No. 3, known as "concerto without orchestra"), which is maddeningly ripped from its context and leaves you aching to hear the work entire. --Thomas May

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Piano Concerto No. 1 In E flat: 1. Allegro Maestoso
  2. Piano Concerto No. 1 In E flat: 2. Quasi Adagio - Allegretto Vivace - Allegro Animato
  3. Piano Concerto No. 1 In E flat: 3. Allegro Marziale Animato
  4. Piano Concerto No. 1 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 1: 1. Vivace
  5. Piano Concerto No. 1 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 1: 2. Andante
  6. Piano Concerto No. 1 In F Sharp Minor, Op. 1: 3. Allegro Vivace
  7. Piano Concerto No. 3 In C, Op. 26: 1. Andante - Allegro
  8. Piano Concerto No. 3 In. C, Op. 26: 2. Tema Con Variazioni
  9. Piano Concerto No. 3 In C, Op. 26: 3. Allegro Ma Non Troppo
  10. Toccata, Op. 11

Disc: 2

  1. Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18: 1. Moderato
  2. Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18: 2. Adagio Sostenuto
  3. Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18: 3. Allegro Scherzando
  4. Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 14 'Concerto without Orchestra': 3. Quasi Variazioni (Variations On A Theme By Clara Wieck)
  5. 3 Romanzen, Op. 28: No. 2 In F Sharp
  6. Piano Concerto No. 1 In B Flat Minor, Op. 23: 1. Allegro Non Troppo E Molto Maestoso - Allegro Con Spirito
  7. Piano Concerto No. 1 In B Flat Minor, Op. 23: 2. Andantino Semplice - Prestissimo - Tempo I
  8. Piano Concerto No. 1 In B Flat Minor, Op. 23: 3. Allegro Con Fuoco


Product Details

  • Performer: Byron Janis
  • Composer: Franz Liszt, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff
  • Audio CD (July 20, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Philips
  • ASIN: B00000JNQ5
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,590 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By A Customer on November 8, 1999
This is an outstanding set in an outstanding series. Janis is a terribly underrated and somewhat forgotten pianist. His technique is superb, but his sense of the music is always sure. He plays withe great energy and passion and conveys the overall shape of many of these concertos very well. Particularly outstanding is his performance of the Prokofiev 3. Despite the power, and the speed, this work is clearly going somewhere. I listened to it on headphones and my ears were smoking by the last note. I imagine that the piano took quite a beating as well. This is a recording which even the most jaded listeners to Russian concerto works will appreciate.
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By A Customer on January 6, 2001
This entire cd is amazing. Janis is widely underated but his Liszt is some of the best out there. Along with Earl Wild and John McArthur I rank him among the best performers of Franz's work. This cd will not disapoint.
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