Classical pianist Janis discusses more than just music in this intriguing autobiography. Born in Pennsylvania in 1928, Janis, a musical child prodigy, portrays himself as an attentive diamond in the rough refined by remarkable family sacrifices and influential patrons, including his mentor Vladimir Horowitz.
A Carnegie Hall debut at 20 marks the prelude to a glamorous life of meeting celebrities and royalty while performing, recording, and touring Europe, Israel, and the Soviet Union. Only when arthritis slows his busy pace and threatens his career does Janis allow self-doubt to cloud an otherwise inspirational narrative. Throughout, Janis balances daily living against his developing inner consciousness.
Each milestone–musical, personal, or romantic–exacts its emotional toll and pushes Janis to explore the affinities between his artistic sensitivity and the paranormal. As retold here, those experiences encompass the superstitious (Janis often bows to an imagined co-performer after playing a concert), the spooky (a closed piano plays on its own), and the mysterious (a death mask of Chopin sheds tears), among others.
Janis and his wife, coauthor Cooper Janis, are not effusive about these incidents. References to synchronicity and Jung, experiences with Janis’s friend psychic Uri Geller, and recommended readings at book’s end allow readers to appreciate Janis’s conviction while coming to their own conclusions. (Dec.) (Publishers Weekly, October 18, 2010)