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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family wishes the legendary American pianist Byron Janis a very happy ninety-fifth birthday!

Janis made his professional debut at the age of fifteen in 1943, performing Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. The following year, he was chosen by Vladimir Horowitz as his first student, and at eighteen, he became the youngest artist signed to a contract by RCA Victor Records. On October 29, 1948, Janis made his Carnegie Hall debut, and Olin Downes in the New York Times wrote, “Not for a long time had this writer heard such a talent allied with the musicianship, the feeling, the intelligence and artistic balance shown by the twenty-year-old pianist, Byron Janis. . . . Whatever he touched he made significant and fascinating by the most legitimate and expressive means.”

On March 4, 1954, Janis made his debut with the Chicago Symphony in Orchestra Hall. “Mr. Janis played a performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto uncommonly beautiful for what it was, and uncommonly exciting for what it can be. . . . If you have it, you have it, and Mr. Janis does,” wrote Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Tribune. “He has temperament and fire and he wants, perhaps more than anything in the world, to play the piano. You can always tell that by the sound. It comes out in the explosions of the double octaves, in the instinctive sensing of the crest of a phrase . . . his Tchaikovsky was big, beautiful and dynamic, yet with all its tensions it sensed the relaxed sweep of the grand style. . . . Reiner and the Orchestra gave superb collaboration, part Russian song, part Russian bear.”

For more than twenty years, Byron Janis was a regular visitor, as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and as a recitalist in Orchestra Hall. A complete list of his appearances is below.

July 10, 1952, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Dimitri Mitropoulos, conductor

March 4 and 5, 1954, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Fritz Reiner, conductor

July 27, 1956, Ravinia Festival
BERNSTEIN Symphony No. 2 (The Age of Anxiety)
Leonard Bernstein, conductor

December 6 and 7, 1956, Civic Opera House
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1
STRAUSS Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor
Fritz Reiner, conductor

August 2, 1957, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
William Steinberg, conductor

August 3, 1957, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
William Steinberg, conductor

January 20, 1958, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor

July 17, 1958, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1
Walter Hendl, conductor

July 22, 1958, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Igor Markevitch, conductor

February 19 and 20, 1959, Orchestra Hall
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Fritz Reiner, conductor

February 24, 1959, Orchestra Hall
LISZT Totentanz for Piano and Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor

March 23, 1959, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Fritz Reiner, conductor

July 9, 1959, Ravinia Festival
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Walter Hendl, conductor

July 11, 1959, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Walter Hendl, conductor

February 4 and 5, 1960, Orchestra Hall
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Fritz Reiner, conductor

February 9, 1960, Orchestra Hall
LISZT Concerto for Piano No. 2 in A Major
Fritz Reiner, conductor

July 5, 1960, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Walter Hendl, conductor

Fritz Reiner and Byron Janis in Orchestra Hall

July 7, 1960, Ravinia Festival
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Walter Hendl, conductor

July 20, 1961, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1
Joseph Rosenstock, conductor

July 22, 1961, Ravinia Festival
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Joseph Rosenstock, conductor

January 4 and 5, 1962, Orchestra Hall
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23
Leopold Stokowski, conductor

August 4, 1962, Ravinia Festival
LISZT Concerto for Piano No. 2 in A Major
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
André Cluytens, conductor

November 1, 2, and 3, 1962, Orchestra Hall
November 4, 1962, Edgewater Beach Hotel (WGN Great Music from Chicago television broadcast)
November 5, 1962, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Hans Rosbaud, conductor

July 11, 1963, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
Walter Hendl, conductor

July 16, 1963, Ravinia Festival
GRIEG Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

November 21 and 22, 1963, Orchestra Hall
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Jean Martinon, conductor

December 31, 1964, January 1 and 2, 1965, Orchestra Hall
January 4, 1965, Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee
MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
Willem van Otterloo, conductor

July 26, 1966, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 28, 1966, Ravinia Festival
RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30
RACHMANINOV Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

April 20 and 21, 1967, Orchestra Hall
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major, Op. 10
STRAUSS Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor
Irwin Hoffman, conductor

June 27, 1967, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

June 29, 1967, Ravinia Festival
GERSHWIN Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

June 29, 1968, Ravinia Festival
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
Seiji Ozawa, conductor

July 6, 1971, Ravinia Festival
STRAUSS Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor
LISZT Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major
Lawrence Foster, conductor

June 29, 1973, Ravinia Festival
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
James Levine, conductor

August 15, 1974, Ravinia Festival
SAINT-SAËNS Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major, Op. 103 (Egyptian)
David Zinman, conductor

Janis also made several recordings with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as follows:

LISZT Totentanz for Piano and Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on February 23, 1959, for RCA

RACHMANINOV Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on March 2, 1957, for RCA

SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on February 21, 1959, for RCA

STRAUSS Burlesque for Piano and Orchestra in D Minor
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Recorded in Orchestra Hall on March 4, 1957, for RCA

Under the auspices of Allied Arts, Janis has appeared as piano recitalist on several occasions, as follows:

March 25, 1956
March 15, 1958
April 9, 1961
April 29, 1962
January 16, 1966
January 29, 1967
December 1, 1968
May 5, 1974
December 16, 1975
February 8, 1976

Happy, happy birthday!

This article also appears here.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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