Byron Janis: The Complete RCA Collection Box set
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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features essays, previously unpublished photos and full discography notes.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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.)
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.Read more ›
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). Janis has never been known as a Beethoven specialist, but the Tempest, Waldstein, and Op.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The North-American pianism of the XX Century finds in Byron janis one of its most excel ambassadors. Read morePublished 19 days ago by Hiram Gòmez Pardo Venezuela
This set preserves much of Janis' artistry. He made broadcasts that aren't here but the set is superb and a superb collection of his artistry.Published on March 18, 2014 by Col William Russell (ret)
(Note: this post originally appeared on the AudioAsylum site on 2013 12 05 - it has been revised slightly here. Read morePublished on December 29, 2013 by Chris from Lafayette
RCA tried to duplicate the original album covers.
Unfortunately some of the discs have less than 40 minutes, which is unacceptable.
This was my first "Waldstein" Sonata (Beethoven) -- on LP. The other recordings are nostalgic and memorable, too. The sound is excellent. Priced reasonably, too.Published on October 19, 2013 by Don
In spite of some duplication, and not including the mercury label recordings, this set is a BARGAIN in which you get the definitive performances of at least three major works. Read morePublished on July 29, 2013 by Arthur Frame
The purpose of this review is to call attention to a valuable service that a major record company has provided to American pianists. Read morePublished on June 5, 2013 by John Fowler the Obsessive Compulsive Reviewer