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Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal Hardcover – October 1, 2010


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Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal + The Byron Janis Story + Chopin Collection
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470604441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470604441
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Classical pianist Janis discusses more than just music in this intriguing autobiography. Born in Pennsylvania in 1928, Janis, a musical child prodigy, portrays himself as an attentive diamond in the rough refined by remarkable family sacrifices and influential patrons, including his mentor Vladimir Horowitz. A Carnegie Hall debut at 20 marks the prelude to a glamorous life of meeting celebrities and royalty while performing, recording, and touring Europe, Israel, and the Soviet Union. Only when arthritis slows his busy pace and threatens his career does Janis allow self-doubt to cloud an otherwise inspirational narrative. Throughout, Janis balances daily living against his developing inner consciousness. Each milestone--musical, personal, or romantic--exacts its emotional toll and pushes Janis to explore the affinities between his artistic sensitivity and the paranormal. As retold here, those experiences encompass the superstitious (Janis often bows to an imagined co-performer after playing a concert), the spooky (a closed piano plays on its own), and the mysterious (a death mask of Chopin sheds tears), among others. Janis and his wife, coauthor Cooper Janis, are not effusive about these incidents. References to synchronicity and Jung, experiences with Janis's friend psychic Uri Geller, and recommended readings at book's end allow readers to appreciate Janis's conviction while coming to their own conclusions. (Dec.)
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Review

* Classical pianist Janis discusses more than just music in this intriguing autobiography. Born in Pennsylvania in 1928, Janis, a musical child prodigy, portrays himself as an attentive diamond in the rough refined by remarkable family sacrifices and influential patrons, including his mentor Vladimir Horowitz. A Carnegie Hall debut at 20 marks the prelude to a glamorous life of meeting celebrities and royalty while performing, recording, and touring Europe, Israel, and the Soviet Union. Only when arthritis slows his busy pace and threatens his career does Janis allow self-doubt to cloud an otherwise inspirational narrative. Throughout, Janis balances daily living against his developing inner consciousness. Each milestone--musical, personal, or romantic--exacts its emotional toll and pushes Janis to explore the affinities between his artistic sensitivity and the paranormal. As retold here, those experiences encompass the superstitious (Janis often bows to an imagined co-performer after playing a concert), the spooky (a closed piano plays on its own), and the mysterious (a death mask of Chopin sheds tears), among others. Janis and his wife, coauthor Cooper Janis, are not effusive about these incidents. References to synchronicity and Jung, experiences with Janis's friend psychic Uri Geller, and recommended readings at book's end allow readers to appreciate Janis's conviction while coming to their own conclusions. (Dec.) (Publishers Weekly, October 18, 2010)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There is no question that Byron Janis is a major pianist and that he hails from America makes him even more of a treasure. He had a brilliant technique, a big style, and a sensitive heart. This autobiography gives us a peek into his origins, some of the key events in his life, and a lot about his experiences and views on the paranormal.

I have to admit I have some mixed thoughts on this book. As a lover of classical music and a pianist I wanted a lot more about his views on various works, concertizing, and even other pianists. We do get a few key concerts such as his acclaimed and triumphant tour of the USSR during the height of the cold war in the 1960s. Part of the tour was a marathon recording session to get three concerti on tape. The account of those sessions is among the most interesting things in the book. We also get some information everyone has wanted to know about what it was like to study with Horowitz. When Janis does mention other artists that he has played with it we more often get an anecdote rather than an insight.

We learn a bit about the pianist's childhood and the difficulties the family had in supporting his prodigious talent. His father stayed home running their business while his mother and sister moved with Byron to New York so he could study as a young child prodigy the Josef and Rosita Lhevinne at Julliard. I wished he had told us more about their studies together and if they were involved in his life after he left there. They seem to just drop away. We get told about a near death experience his father had and the paranormal way Byron fixed things to cure him. But we never hear about his father's actual death or how it affected Janis. We know his mother lived a very long time, at least to 92, but we don't hear about her death either.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Chris on November 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked this book up on a whim, as it was recommended by Amazon and its title and subject matter intrigued me. I love the work of Chopin and am an amateur pianist studying at a music university.

This book is mostly an autobiography, as the title suggests. He starts from the very beginning, of him being a childhood sensation, touring all over the world and working with famous teachers. His experiences studying under Josef Lhévinne and his wife as a young child are fascinating. Janis was also Vladimir Horowitz's first student and shares many interesting and personal stories of the man which offer further insight into his personality. It was great indeed to read about Janis' rise to fame as a stunning virtuoso. For pianist readers, he offers some technique advice that is helpful.

Most of Byron's stories are inspiring. He talks of his fight with arthritis and its crippling effects on him and his piano playing. It's a story of triumph over a disease that could have ended his career. His tale of meeting his second wife, Maria, and how their eyes met and a lifetime of memories flooded through both of them is quite astounding. Janis has lead a rich life to be sure.

The second half of the book deals with the paranormal, and will probably make or break the book for the reader, as it did for me. Some of the stories, such as the voice his wife heard in the Paris cemetery that lead his wife to Marie d'Agoult's grave, are intriguing. However, once Janis introduces his close friendship with Uri Geller, most of what Janis says afterward goes out the window.

Uri Geller was famously debunked by James Randi and Johnny Carson on his Tonight Show quite some time ago.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By martbar on December 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Byron Janis' genius is indisputable--simply a matter of public record at this point...but I wish he had collaborated with a journalist on his remarkable story. I studied with him briefly (four lessons over the course of four months) and can confirm he is a highly unusual individual. Unfortunately, his strangeness is allowed free reign in this story and stretches the reader's credibility in Janis' recollections in general. If the reader is willing to take this keyboard genius' paranormal experiences with a grain of....well, let's say a decent-sized block of a salt lick....the rest of the story is highly compelling for both musicians and anyone who would like insight into how professional artists live. Janis' wife and collaborator on this project is a talented visual artist (not to mention the daughter of actor Gary Cooper) and adds very interesting angles to this story. I give it four stars rather than five only because the professionalism of the actual writing is not as high as in, for example, pianist Leon Fleisher's story--which also was published in fall 2010 and on which he collaborated with a solid journalist. Still, Chopin and Beyond remains compelling reading for its anecdotes about a musical artist rubbing elbows with the rich and famous as well as the...downright weird.
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By kristin on May 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book immensely.
Fascinating life, observations & revelations.
Gives credence to my own experiences with music & paranormal events.
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By Efriam ben Yisrual on February 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a nice book that has many charming moments.
Fascinating society gossip. But, not much into any real insight into the creative process.
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