The Iron Curtain, U-2 and Gary Powers, and culture all came together for pianist Byron Janis in 1960 as a United States cultural ambassador to the Soviet Union. While the US enjoyed pianist Sviatoslav Ritcher performing concerts in America, Janis performed in Moscow and Leningrad in 1960. While it has often been thought that officials and citizens were "bugged" and recorded for espionage, it came as quite a surprise that a concert had been recorded without the artist's knowledge.
Fast forward 48 years, and that historic performance by Byron Janis is now released by the artist himself. WBAA's John Clare spoke to Janis about the concert.
Learn more about the recording here. Saturday, March 24th, 2018 Byron Janis turns 90 years young!
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 and, the following year, 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.” His many recordings appear on the RCA and Mercury Phillips labels. His two latest recordings for EMI are “Byron Janis Plays Chopin” which received National Public Radio’s “Performance Today Critics Choice Award” and the Chopin/Liszt CD “Byron Janis True Romantic.” Sony Classical has recently released an 11-CD box set titled “Byron Janis The Complete RCA Collection.” A letter of honor from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was presented and in the letter he stated, “For a remarkable 69 years, your tremendous talent has thrilled audiences around the world, and your consistent presence on New York’s performing arts scene has made you a fixture of our City’s thriving cultural life.” Michael Bloomberg then declared that May 4th is “Byron Janis Day.”
In spite of the development of psoriatic arthritis that was first diagnosed in both hands over thirty years ago, Mr. Janis has continued to play and has become a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation as its National Ambassador to the Arts. Recently, he has become a Yamaha Artist and has been appointed as the first Presidential Advisor to the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute. He has recently launched the extraordinary new technology of Yamaha’s Disklavier CFX Piano.
In celebration of Byron’s 85th birthday, Sony Classical marked this milestone by bringing together Byron Janis’s complete RCA Victor recordings for the first time in one collection. The Byron Janis Collection brings together his entire discography on RCA, with no fewer than seven first on CD releases.
He was recently written into the Congressional Record of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, honoring him as musician, diplomat and inspiration. He is married to Maria Cooper, daughter of Hollywood legend Gary Cooper. Martin Scorsese is developing a Byron Janis Biopic at Paramount from a script by Peter Glanz. The project is based on Janis' book, "Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal."