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Few pieces encapsulate Liszt’s genius as comprehensively as his two piano concertos. They not only showcase his dazzling technical ability, but also his skills as a musical visionary. Both took almost 25 years of painstaking work to complete, during which time he made drastic revisions, enhancing the role of the orchestra and the structural unity, and developing what Robert Schumann called ‘a new and brilliant way to weld the orchestra and piano together’.
Byron Janis’s 1962 Moscow recording of these concertos has assumed legendary status. Janis was a former child prodigy who studied with Vladimir Horowitz during the 1940s, and was considered one of the most brilliant American pianists of his generation before his career was cut short by illness. He was chosen in 1960 to spearhead a new cross-cultural exchange between the USA and USSR, and made such an impact that the American Mercury recording team went over to the USSR to record this collaboration. The recordings were made at the height of Janis’s career, and are probably some of the most accomplished he ever made.
Janis’s own agile technique and unfussy style bring a welcome sparkle and structural lucidity to this music.
During the 1962 sessions Janis also recorded a small selection of solo miniatures by Schumann, Falla and Guion. The previous year he also recorded three pieces by Liszt: the Hungarian Rhapsody No.6, his Valse oubliée No.1 and Sonetto 104 del Petrarca from the Années de pèlerinage: 2ème année, and these are all included here.
Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb- I. Allegro Maestoso
Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb - II. Quasi Adagio; Allgegretto vivace; Allegro animato
Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb - III. Allegro marziale animato
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A - I. Adagio sostenuto assai
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A - II. Allegro agitato assai
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A - III. Allegro moderato
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A - IV. Allegro deciso
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A - V. Marziale un poco meno allegro
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A - VI. Allegro animato
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6
Romance in F#
Novellette in F
The Miller's Dance
Sonetto del Petrarco CIV
The Harmonica Player
“The solo pieces are also attractive. Janis
is a very expert player, and covers a variety
of moods with success … the little Valse oubliée is charming, as is the deeply romantic Petrarch Sonnet. The Falla “Miller’s Dance” is no less colourful, while the Hungarian Rhapsody No.6 … has great panache, not
least in the hair-raising octave passages.”
“Janis’s glittering articulation is matched by his sense of poetry and drama, and there is plenty of dash in these very compelling performances, which are afforded characteristically brilliant Mercury sound.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.