Byron Janis, Pianist of Romantic Passion, Dies at 95

Byron Janis, an American pianist renowned for his commanding performances of the Romantic repertory and for his discovery of manuscript copies of two Chopin waltzes, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 95.

His death, at a hospital, was confirmed by his wife, Maria Cooper Janis. He remained active, writing about his career and managing recordings of his music, until recent days, she said.

On the concert stage, Mr. Janis could seem like a tightly wound spring, full of tension that, when combined with the sheer physical energy he brought to his performances, yielded interpretations that could be overpowering and seductive, by turns.

At the height of his career, in the 1950s and 1960s, he was known for the tremendous sound and colorful sonorities he drew from the piano, and for a freewheeling interpretive approach that orisbet sometimes led him to bypass composers’ expressive markings when they were at odds with his conception.

“Mr. Janis has a quirky physical style compounded of nervous hovering, sudden jabs, bounces, brittle taps and tentative caresses,” the critic Will Crutchfield wrote in The New York Times, reviewing a recital at the 92nd Street Y in 1985. “The music emerges a little like that too; occasionally it’s disconcerting, but at least he has a style, and more often it is engaging.”

What audiences did not know was that by the early 1970s, Mr. Janis was experiencing pain and stiffness during his performances, the result of psoriatic arthritis in both hands and wrists. After he was diagnosed, in 1973, he maintained his concert schedule, and his five-hour daily practice regimen.

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