Jablonski, Marek (Michael)


Janis [Yanks, Yankelevitch], Byron



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Janis [Yanks, Yankelevitch], Byron


(b McKeesport, PA, 24 March 1924). American pianist. As a child he studied first with Josef and Rosina Lhévinne in New York and then for six years with Adele Marcus. In 1943 he made his orchestral début with Frank Black and the NBC SO in Rachmaninoff's Second Concerto. The following year he played the same work with the Pittsburgh SO conducted by Lorin Maazel, who was not yet 14; Horowitz was in the audience and offered to teach Janis, who worked with him for three years. After his Carnegie Hall début in 1948, Janis appeared with the world's leading orchestras and as a recitalist, making many tours, including an outstandingly successful one of the USSR in 1960. On his return to the USA he celebrated the 150th anniversary of Liszt's birth by performing both Liszt's piano concertos with Charles Münch and the Boston SO in Boston and New York. His career was interrupted by illness in the 1960s but he began to make regular appearances again in 1972. He continued to pursue his concert career with notable success despite the onset the following year of arthritis, which affected his hands and wrists. He played at the White House in 1985 and the same year was made Ambassador for the Arts of the National Arthritis Foundation. Janis was a keen advocate of Gottschalk before that composer’s music became fashionable, but he remains best known in the repertory from Rachmaninoff to Prokofiev. He has also composed popular songs and ballads and since 1988 has spent more time on composition, especially for film and television. In 1967 at the Château de Thoiry, Yvelines, Janis discovered autograph manuscripts of two Chopin waltzes (G, op.70 no.1, of which no autograph had previously been known, and E, op.18), then two variant autographs of the same waltzes in the Yale University library in 1973; a film entitled Frederic Chopin – a Voyage with Byron Janis relates his French discoveries. Having made no recordings since the age of 30, he returned to the studio in 1996 to record a Chopin disc for EMI. He was the first American to win a Grand Prix du Disque, and he also received a Harriet Cohen Award. In 1965 the French government bestowed upon him the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et Lettres, the first American pianist to be so honoured. He serves as chairman of the Global Forum arts and culture committee and on the board and music advisory committee for Pro Musicis, an international organization devoted to helping young artists.

MICHAEL STEINBERG/R




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