Friday, April 14, 2017

Franz Liszt - Piano Concertos & Encore (Byron Janis)


Composer: Franz Liszt; Robert Schumann; Manuel de Falla; David W. Guion
  • (01-03) Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat
  • (04-09) Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 2 in A
  • (10) Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6
  • (11) Liszt - Valse oubliée
  • (12) Schumann - Romance in F sharp
  • (13) Schumann - Novellette in F
  • (14) Falla - The Miller's Dance
  • (15) Liszt - Sonetto del Petrarco CIV
  • (16) Guion - The Harmonica Player

Byron Janis, piano
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Kirill Kondrashin, conductor (1-3)
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra
Gennady Rozhdestvensky, conductor (4-9)

Date: 1961, 1962
Label: Mercury Classics



As a teenager in the 1940s, Byron Janis studied with Horowitz for three years and has a sure technique and a big declamatory style that suits the Liszt concertos. Early in his career, he went to perform in the Soviet Union, and these Mercury Living Presence recordings, done in Moscow, save for three of the solo pieces, were the first to be made in the USSR by American engineers using American equipment. Certainly the sound is splendidly immediate and belies its age of nearly three decades. The playing, too, is fresh, and though I have heard more subtle performances of the Liszt concertos these have joie de vivre and offer plenty of exhilarating virtuosity, with the two Soviet orchestras under a pair of fine conductors giving sparkling support. The piano tone is a little steely in forte and brass more brazen than everyone might like (try tracks 7 and 8 for this), but still acceptable. A recommendation is well earned here.

The solo pieces are also attractive. Janis is a very expert player, and covers a variety of moods with success. Although pianists of the next generation may find a more inward-looking poetry in the Schumann Romance in F sharp major, the little Valse oubliee is charming, as is the deeply romantic Petrarch Sonnet. The Falla ''Miller's Dance'' is no less colourful, while the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 (which begins in D flat major and ends in B flat major) has great panache, not least in the hair-raising octave passages. It's adorned effectively by a few embellishments which may well be the pianist's own.

-- Christopher Headington, Gramophone [9/1991]

More reviews:


Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary. Liszt gained renown in Europe for his virtuosic skill as a pianist and in the 1840s he was considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent composers of the "New German School". Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.


Byron Janis (born March 24, 1928) is an American classical pianist, one of only three students ever acknowledged by Vladimir Horowitz. His pianism has been described as combining a Horowitzian technique with a sublime musicality akin to Cortot's. His discography covers repertoire from Beethoven to David W. Guion and includes major piano concertos from Mozart to Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. Janis made several recordings for RCA Victor and Mercury Records. He had been suffering from severe arthritis throughout much of his decades-long career.


FLAC, tracks
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