Veteran pianist Byron Janis passes away at 95

    The Hawk
    March18/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    From a prodigy under Vladimir Horowitz to a cultural diplomat and a resilient artist overcoming physical challenges, his career touched hearts worldwide and left an indelible mark on classical music.

    Veteran pianist Byron Janis

    Los Angeles [US]: Veteran pianist Byron Janis, who was student of Vladimir Horowitz and was selected in 1960 by the US to perform in the Soviet Union, has died.
    As per The Hollywood Reporter, Janis died last week at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He was 95.

    The news of his demise was shared by his wife, Maria Cooper Janis, daughter of two-time Oscar-winning actor Gary Cooper.
    In a statement, she said, "I have been blessed with the privilege for 58 years of loving and being loved by not only one of the greatest artists of the 20th century but by an exceptional human being who took his talents to their highest pinnacle."
    During his 85-year career, Janis covered composers from Bach to David W. Guion and performed major piano concertos from Chopin, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Prokofiev. He occupied two volumes of the 1999 Mercury Philips series Great Pianists of the 20th Century and recorded for Philips, EMI, Sony and Universal as well.

    During the Cold War, Janis became the first American artist chosen to participate in the 1960 Cultural Exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Later, he was the first American concert pianist to be asked back to Cuba, 40 years after his previous performance there.
    Janis performed six times by four sitting presidents at the White House, and among his awards were the Commander of the French Legion d'Honneur for Arts and Letters, the Grand Prix du Disque, the Stanford Fellowship from Yale and the gold medal from the French Society for the Encouragement of Progress (he was the first musician to receive that honour since its inception in 1906).
    1973, he developed painful psoriatic arthritis in both hands but kept it secret until 1985 when, after a performance at the White House, Nancy Reagan made his condition public when she announced his role as spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation. He underwent several surgeries to fix the problem.
    Remembering her husband, Maria further wrote, "In spite of adverse physical challenges throughout his career, he overcame them, and it did not diminish his artistry. Music is Byron's soul, not a ticket to stardom, and his passion for and love of creating music informed every day of his life of 95 years."
    "The music world, if it knows how to listen, will be constantly enriched and educated by the music created by Byron Janis, my best friend, companion, LOVE -- what gratitude I have lived with every day and shall continue to do so all the rest of my days," she concluded.