Scarlet Rowe

Legendary Pianist Byron Janis Releases the First Album of a Three Volume Series

Monday, May 22, 2017, New York, New York

Piano legend Byron Janis releases Byron Janis Live on Tour, an album of never before released live recordings of performances by the internationally celebrated pianist. It is Maestro Janis’ first release of new material in twenty years and celebrates the 70th anniversary of his very first RCA LP recording in 1947 at the age of 19 titled Bach/Liszt, Chopin. Byron Janis Live on Tour is an exclusive compilation of twelve works composed by Haydn, Chopin & Liszt.  Also featured are 2 pieces composed for stage and screen by Janis himself, a “hot” collaboration on 2 pianos with Cy Coleman and finally, a song he composed, David’s Star for which his son Stefan wrote the lyrics.  This album is dedicated to him, who died tragically of a heart attack in February of this year. The album is due to be released by Janis Eleven Enterprises, LTD on May 23 in honor of his 89th birthday which was celebrated on March 24, 2017. Each Volume will have a limited edition pressed vinyl release.

This release is the first of a three CD release musical journey. In the fall, Maestro Janis will release “Live from Leningrad” a recording made in the early sixties in Russia.  This was recorded unbeknownst to him while he was serving as a US Cultural Ambassador to the Soviet Union and surreptitiously presented to him nearly sixty years later. Then just in time for the holidays, Byron Janis Live on Tour, Volume II will be available.  Similar in format to Volume I, it will include a compilation of live recordings of performances of Mr. Janis from all over the world.

"A packed house...was lavish in its applause. And rightly so, for Janis is unquestionably one of the best pianists around today...hair-raising...brilliant."
-Harold C. Schonberg
Music Critic, The New York Times

"The piano is a percussion instrument so the challenge to the performer is to make it sing." Byron Janis

Track list

  1.    Sonata E Flat Major Hob. XVI:49 (Allegro) Ÿ Haydn Ÿ Paris, France 1982
  2.    Sonata E Flat Major Hob. XVI:49 (Adagio Cantabile) Ÿ Haydn Ÿ Paris, France 1982
  3.    Sonata E Flat Major Hob. XVI:49 (Tempo di Menuet) Ÿ Haydn Ÿ Paris, France 1982
  4.    Polonaise Ÿ Chopin Ÿ Havana, Cuba 1999
  5.    Mazurka F Minor (Posthumous) Ÿ Chopin Ÿ Havana, Cuba 1999
  6.    Nocturne D Flat Op. 27 No. 2 Ÿ Chopin Ÿ Warsaw, Poland 1979
  7.   Waltz A Flat Major Op. 34 No.1 Ÿ Chopin Ÿ Toulon, France 1989
  8.   Sonata B Minor Third Movement (Largo) Op. 58 No. 3 Ÿ Chopin Ÿ Knoxville, TN 1982
  9.   Waltz G Flat Major (Posthumous) Ÿ Chopin Ÿ New York, NY 1982
  10.   Waltz G Flat Major Op. 70 No. 1 Ÿ Chopin Ÿ New York, NY 1982
  11.   Sonetto del Petrarca No. 104 Ÿ Liszt Ÿ Brussels, Belgium 1988
  12.   Paraphrase on Verdi’s Opera, Rigoletto Ÿ Liszt Ÿ Madrid, Spain 1981
  13.   You Are More Ÿ Byron Janis Ÿ Abbey, Bethlehem, CT 1988
  14.   David’s Star – A Song for Israel Ÿ Byron Janis Ÿ Abbey, Bethlehem, CT 1988
  15.   Like Any Man Ÿ Byron Janis Ÿ Abbey, Bethlehem, CT 1988
  16.   “By and Cy – More Paganini Variations” Ÿ Byron Janis and Cy Coleman* Ÿ NY, NY 1978

·         “By and Cy – More Paganini Variations” Ÿ Copyright Janis Eleven Enterprises LTD & Notable Music Company

About Byron Janis

Byron Janis is internationally renowned as one of the world's greatest pianists. He made his orchestral debut at age 15 with Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra. The following year he was chosen by Vladimir Horowitz as his first student. At 18, he became the youngest artist ever signed to a contract by RCA Victor Records. Two years later, in 1948, he made his Carnegie Hall debut which was hailed as an unparalleled success. He has played with every major symphony orchestra in both the U.S and abroad.

Mr. Janis was the first American artist chosen to participate in the 1960 Cultural Exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union and was hailed on the front page of The New York Times as, "an ambassador in breaking down 'cold war' barriers." He was also the first American concert pianist to be asked back to Cuba, 40 years after his last performance there, during which time no American was allowed to perform on Cuban soil.

His many recordings appear on the RCA, Mercury Phillips and EMI labels. In the Spring of 2012, EMI released a Byron Janis "Chopin Collection," a compilation of his Chopin recordings featuring, for the first time on one CD, two unknown Chopin waltz manuscripts which he discovered at Yale University (the other two versions he discovered at the Chateau de Thoiry in France).

In 1973, he developed Psoriatic Arthritis in both hands and wrists yet he continued his performing career and made two highly acclaimed CDs. He kept it secret until 1985 when, after a performance at the White House, Nancy Reagan made his condition public when she announced that he would become a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation as its National Ambassador to the Arts.

Among his honors are: Commander of the French Legion d'Honneur for Arts and Letters, the Grand Prix du Disque, the Stanford Fellowship (the highest honor of Yale University) and the Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist Award. He received an honorary doctorate at Trinity College and the gold medal from the French Society for the Encouragement of Progress, the first musician to receive this honor since its inception in 1906. Mr. Janis also has had the great honor of being invited six times by four sitting Presidents to perform at the White House and was recently written into the Congressional Record of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, honoring him as, "a musician, a diplomat and an inspiration."

Mr. Janis has been featured many times on major television interview and talk programs such as The Tonight Show, 20/20 and CBS Sunday Morning, amongst many others. In recent years, he has been concentrating on writing music for stage and screen and has composed the score for a major musical production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." He has also written the score for The True Gen, a feature documentary on the 20-year friendship between Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway.

He is featured in the PBS documentary, by Emmy-award-winning producer Peter Rosen, "The Byron Janis Story" which attests to the courage he has displayed in refusing to become overwhelmed by a disease that would have brought the career of many artists to a standstill. His memoirs, Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal were released in November 2010.

He is married to Maria Cooper, daughter of Hollywood legend Gary Cooper. Sadly, they lost their son Stefan Janis on February 1 of this year from a heart attack while he was vacationing in France.

For a list of upcoming events and tributes, press information or to schedule interviews, limited public appearances and engagements, please contact Bettina L. Klinger, President, Brand Varietals, INC (917) 930-8654 or email bklinger@brandvarietal.com.

Byron Janis Live on Tour Volume I, is available for purchase on byronjanislive.com.

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A Classical Maven Who Can Really Swing

By : TERRY TEACHOUT

March 22, 2017 4:57 p.m. ET

Byron Janis, who turns 89 this week, was one of what Gary Graffman, his colleague and contemporary, called the OYAPs—the great generation of “Outstanding Young American Pianists,” as they were customarily described by journalists, who crowded the concert halls of the world in the years immediately following World War II. Mr. Janis, Vladimir Horowitz’s first pupil, ranked high among the OYAPs, and to hear the stupendous recordings of Franz Liszt’s “Totentanz” and Richard Strauss’s “Burleske” that he made in the ’50s with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony (both of which are still available on CD) is to be left in no possible doubt of his immense talent. Even after psoriatic arthritis assaulted his hands and temporarily short-circuited his career, Mr. Janis managed to reconstruct his technique and continued to concertize to memorable effect well into the ’90s.

Mr. Janis’s musical interests have long ranged beyond the classics. Out Friday, “Byron Janis Live: On Tour” (Janis Eleven Enterprises), a collection of previously unissued live performances of pieces by Chopin, Haydn and Liszt that were recorded between 1979 and 1999, also includes solo-piano arrangements of several of Mr. Janis’ songs, thus reminding us that he is also a highly accomplished popular songwriter who, among other surprising things, has written the score for a musical version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Judging from the two resplendently tuneful numbers from the show, “Like Any Man” and “You Are More,” that Mr. Janis plays on “On Tour,” the concert hall’s gain has been Broadway’s loss.

The biggest surprise, however, is the encore, a piano duet called “By and Cy—More Paganini Variations.” On this track, Mr. Janis and Cy Coleman, a classically trained Broadway composer who wrote the score for “Sweet Charity” but started out as a jazz pianist of note, join forces to improvise on Paganini’s A Minor Caprice, the familiar solo-violin piece on which Brahms and Rachmaninoff produced their own sets of variations. Mr. Janis was a celebrated exponent of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and he also made an impressively idiomatic recording of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in 1953. But to hear him and Coleman blend the two pieces together (so to speak) into what Mr. Janis calls “clazz” is something else again. Taped in 1978 before an audibly delighted audience, “By and Cy” is by turns witty, bluesy, wickedly clever and staggeringly virtuosic.

Time was when most classical musicians steered as far clear of jazz as possible—usually with good reason, too, since few of them had any comprehension of its swinging rhythmic language, which caused them to sound embarrassingly square whenever they essayed such jazz-flavored works as “Rhapsody in Blue.” (If you want a laugh, listen to the way Kurt Masur conducted it with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. To call it “stodgy” would be tactful in the extreme.) Nowadays, though, it’s anything but uncommon for classical musicians, especially American-born ones, both to appreciate jazz and to play it well. When I went to Birdland the other night to hear Gary Burton’s last New York performance, I was pleased but not at all surprised to see Joseph Alessi, the principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic, stroll up to the bandstand and jam with Mr. Burton on “Bags’ Groove,” a blues by Milt Jackson. You’d never have guessed that he’d been playing John Adams’s “Harmonielehre” earlier that evening at Lincoln Center.

As for Mr. Janis, he’s been listening to jazz his whole life long, and he and Coleman, who died in 2004, were childhood friends. Nevertheless, he is in no way identified with jazz or popular music: His specialty was the 19th-century romantics, Chopin and Rachmaninoff in particular, and nobody played them better. Neither was Van Cliburn, another OYAP who loved American popular song and who once taped an impromptu version of “You and the Night and the Music” (for which he supplied his own vocals) in the middle of a late-night recording session otherwise devoted to Chopin’s nocturnes. But he never approved it for release, any more than Vladimir Horowitz was willing to record the version of “Tea for Two” that he wrote after hearing Art Tatum play the song at a 52nd Street nightclub. Back then, classical musicians simply didn’t do such things.

Well, now they do, and I congratulate Mr. Janis for allowing us to hear him and Cy Coleman trade choruses on the A Minor Caprice. Tatum he wasn’t, but neither was Coleman: They were themselves, they loved jazz, and it is a joy to be able to hear this five-minute musical souvenir of their long friendship. It reminds me of what Tatum said to the jazz pianist Hampton Hawes when he heard him play in 1956: “Son, you hot.” You hot, too, Mr. Janis.

—Mr. Teachout, the Journal’s drama critic, writes “Sightings,” a column about the arts, every other week. Write to him at tteachout@wsj.com.