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Byron Janis: The Complete RCA Collection Box set

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Audio CD, Box set, April 16, 2013
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Editorial Reviews

artists, he is recognized as one of America's greatest pianists of all time.
The Complete RCA Collection brings together for the first time his entire discography on RCA Records, plus seven pieces available for the first time on CD, including previously unreleased recordings of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and works by Franz Liszt. Each CD is newly remastered with the original LP artwork, and the box includes a bonus CD with early recordings that round out this extraordinary artist's career. The book
features essays, previously unpublished photos and full discography notes. Also included is The Byron Janis Story DVD that recounts the musician's miraculous, unusual and inspiring life and features interviews with Lorin Maazel, actress Marian Seldes, Emanuel Ax and Byron's family.

Product Details

  • Performer: Byron Janis
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin, Sergei Rachmaninov, Franz Liszt, et al.
  • Audio CD (April 16, 2013)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 12
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: RCA
  • ASIN: B00AK3X3DI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,086 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Donald Manildi on April 20, 2013
If RCA/Sony had abandoned its "original album" concept for this package, the same material could have been easily fitted onto six discs instead of 11. There would have been no duplications and we wouldn't have to put up with an extraneous item (Grofe's trashy Grand Canyon Suite) in which Janis does not participate (it was the original coupling for the Rhapsody in Blue). I have difficulty seeing the advantage of reproducing the original jackets at about 5/12 their original size, and we also need a magnifying glass (not included) to read the notes.

Incidentally, this box is not quite as "complete" as we are led to believe. Hank Drake's review has mentioned the Chopin D-Flat Nocturne, a perfectly beautiful performance on the original LP. Furthermore, when Philips produced its "Great Pianists" series nearly 15 years ago, the first of two volumes devoted to Janis included his previously unissued RCA Victor recordings of Liszt's Petrarch Sonnet 104 and Consolation No.5. Neither work is to be found in the new set, nor do we have a rather spectacular Liszt Transcendental Etude No.10 that Janis recorded in 1957 for RCA that they never released.

With such a slender amount of material recorded over a 12-year period, RCA Victor could and should have served Janis much better during his prime with additional recordings from his repertoire. The arrival of Mr. Van Cliburn on the scene in 1958, and his contract with RCA, spelled the end of the line for Janis's affiliation with the label. That said, we should be grateful for what we have, since Janis was one of the most impressive American pianists during that period. There is one item--Mussorgsky's "Pictures..."--that has not appeared before (although he did record the work for Mercury a few years later.)
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I'm giving this release a full five stars for the fact that this set includes some recordings that have never made it to CD (or even to MP3 downloads). In particular, for years I've hunted high and low for a reissue of Byron Janis' brilliant "Rhapsody in Blue" performance, having worn out my old RCA Bluebird LP and 45 rpm EP sets years ago. Finally, it's here -- and in better fidelity than ever. For those who may not know, this is the "jazz" orchestration rather than the standard orchestral version, and it's highly effective here with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra. I also like the very earliest Janis solo material, taken from 78 rpm disks and not available since, even in LP form.

It's true that we have several performances "duplicated" in the set because they were released twice by RCA in the LP era. But even so, it's highly interesting because we get to hear how "constricted" the original mono recording of the Rach 1 was (with Reiner/Chicago), versus the depth and bloom of the same recording released in stereo a few years later. And I'd never heard Janis' Schumann Piano Concerto recording, also with Reiner/CSO, which was only released at the tail end of the LP era in a short-lived issue. It turns out to be a real treat.

I was surprised to see yet another Janis recording of the Mussorgsky "Pictures at an Exhibition" that has never been released before now. It's like deja vu all over again, as Janis recorded the same piece on the Mercury label just a few years later -- and that one also wasn't released. Finally we get to hear (both of) them, decades later. I suspect this wasn't a coincidence at all, or that the record companies were responsible for holding them back.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Hank Drake VINE VOICE on April 22, 2013
Byron Janis was one of several American pianists whose performing careers were curtailed: he, Gary Graffman, and Leon Fleisher all suffered from hand ailments. The greatest of all, William Kapell, died in a plane crash in 1953. This 11 CD set covers Janis' recordings for RCA from 1947 until 1959.

At age 16, Janis performed in a concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony conducted by Lorin Maazel - then aged 14. Vladimir Horowitz was in the audience and immediately invited Janis to study with him - their studies lasted four years. It's easy to understand why Horowitz took a shine to the young Janis. The nervous energy that informed much of the younger Horowitz's playing is evident in Janis' early work. (For decades, there were rumors to the effect that Horowitz's interest in Janis was more physical than musical, and that the two pianists were lovers. But as Janis revealed in his autobiography, he actually engaged in a brief yet intense affair with Horowitz's wife, Wanda. When Horowitz learned of the affair, Janis' studies with him were terminated - although they reconciled several years later.)

To his credit, Horowitz never tried to impose his sound on Janis, and he encouraged the younger pianist to seek out his own style and "make your own mistakes". Nevertheless, Horowitz's shadow hangs over several of the recordings in this collection, most notably Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, where Janis makes a number of textual emendations similar to those made by Horowitz. That may be the reason the recording sat unreleased in the vault until now - I can think of no other, as it's an outstanding performance in excellent sound (it is the only stereophonic solo recording in the set).
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