Day 62 – Byron Janis: Schumann + Liszt (CD 62)

I was hooked from the first few seconds of this captivating piece of music.

Some musicians, like some compositions (and some recordings), touch me immediately.

Pianist Byron Janis is one of those musicians.

And this is one of those compositions.

And one of those recordings.

The Objective Stuff

For more about pianist Byron Janis (1928 – ) click here.

Today is another repeat performance, this time with Byron Janis playing piano, rather than Van Cliburn (See Day 43).

For more about Robert Schumman (1810-1856), click here.

For more about today’s composition, click here.

Schumann completed his Concerto in 1845. He was 35. This performance was recorded on February 21, 1959. Byron Janis was 31. Maestro Reiner was in his 71st year.

I took this picture at 7:31 this morning. Even though the sun rose at 6:44, it seemed kind of murky out here. Must be quite overcast.

For more about Franz Liszt (1811-1886), click here.

For more about Liszt’s Totentanz composition, click here.

This performance is not just a repeat with a different pianist; it’s the same performance, by the same pianist, recorded on February 23, 1959! (See Day 51.) I hate to ask, but “WTF?”

It’s one thing to have the same composition played by different musicians. But why include the same track twice in one very expensive box set?

The Subjective Stuff

Recording quality: 3 (Totentanz) / 5 (Concerto in A Minor)
Overall musicianship: 5 (for Byron, alone)
CD booklet notes: 2
CD “album cover” information: 2 (extremely tiny, reversed-out type = disaster)
How does this make me feel: 2 (for Totentanz) / 5 (for Concerto in A Minor)

I liked Totentanz even less this time than I did the first time I heard it. It’s just one jarring, grating piece of music.

Dance of Death, indeed.

I like Schumann’s Concerto in A Minor even more this time, I think. It’s such a lovely piece of music. And Byron Janis has such a unique style of playing.

I noticed Listz’s Totentanz was spelled correctly this time on the album cover. That’s a bonus.

But I noticed it’s impossible to read any of the copy on the back. Reversed-out type (white out of a black background) is always hard to read, anyway.

But shrink it down to 20% of its original size and it becomes impossible. Even when I took a picture with my iPhone, e-mailed it to myself, and used the magnifying glass app on my laptop, it was still hard to read.

Cool front cover, though. Looks like art that belongs on an album by a heavy metal band.

I’d listen to Byron Janis tickle the ivories in Schumann’s Concerto in A Minor again.

But I hope to never hear Listz’s Totentanz again in my lifetime.

I don’t begrudge Mr. Janis, or Mr. Van Cliburn the skill it takes to play these difficult pieces. But that doesn’t mean I have to like them.

One other thing I noticed about today’s album. It doesn’t mention Dynagroove. But it does use a phrase I don’t remember seeing before: “Red Seal Series.”

NOTE: Tomorrow is my last day on this Fritz Reiner project!

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