I would like to think that Byron Janis (born March 24, 1928) has received this newly-minted set of his Mercury stereo recordings (presented as on LP with original artwork and with recorded sound that does full justice to the label’s considerable reputation for sonic excellence) and that they give him happy memories of the sessions (1960-64) and the performances render him satisfaction all these years later.

There is much to admire – Janis’s music-serving technique, a freshness of approach (irrespective of how detailed his preparation), and a spontaneity with the notes (however challenging) that invites pleasure and admiration, an ink-still-wet quality that suggests ‘as live’; indeed following Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto (Minneapolis/Dorati) I expected applause. And this could also be said of Tchaikovsky No.1 (LSO/Menges) and Rachmaninov No.3 (LSO/Dorati) despite a cut in the Finale of the latter work. Janis recorded in Russia – both Liszt Concertos (Moscow Philharmonic/Kondrashin; Moscow Radio SO/Rozhdestvensky) and, equally charismatic, Prokofiev No.3 & Rachmaninov No.1, both Kondrashin; historic, too, witness the cover: https://www.discogs.com/release/12105913-Byron-Janis-Prokofiev-Rachmaninoff-Kyril-Kondrashin-Moscow-Philharmonic-Orchestra-Piano-Concertos/image/SW1hZ2U6MzQ2MzUyNDc=. Perhaps the pearl though is Schumann’s Concerto with Skrowaczewski & Minneapolis, so sensitive and graceful, rippling with romance.

Of the without-orchestra tapings there are Janis’s celebrated Pictures at an Exhibition, a disc of encores (nicely varied repertoire), and the first release of “Live from Leningrad 1960”, a seventy-five-minute recital captured in decent-enough sound, Janis exuding characteristic style, poetry, warmth, delicacy, power and persuasion in Sonatas by Mozart (K283), Chopin (B-flat minor) and Copland (tough music if rewarding), as well as shorter pieces by Chopin, Falla, Liszt and Schumann. A handsome coda. Decca 485 3607 (9 CDs + Blu-ray audio).


Prokofiev, Toccata, Opus 11.