Denison's Vail Series Opens 22nd Season With Acclaimed Pianist John Bayless
Posted: September 24, 2001
Denison University's Vail Series opens its 22nd season at 8 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 29) in Swasey Chapel with a recital featuring improviser, composer, entertainer and recording artist John Bayless.
Bayless, a New York-based, Julliard-trained native of Texas, has been heralded by the New York Times as "an evocative pianist with a lovely piano sound and considerable personal pizzazz." Hailed in his regular performances with orchestras and in solo programs in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Toronto, Houston and Los Angeles, Bayless has also made acclaimed tours of England and Italy. Such orchestras as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Boston Pops, San Francisco Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra have presented him as guest soloist.
Bayless has been called a "pianist genius" with an astonishing gift for improvising in any style. He regaled music-lovers at a Cliburn-sponsored concert in Texas by dividing the audience in half, taking requests of favorite songs from one side and favorite composers from the other, resulting in performances of the theme from "I Love Lucy" in the style of Chopin and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in the style of Rachmaninoff. Bayless's concerts have also included Beatles songs in the style of Bach and movements from his hit recording "West Side Story Variations."
His breakthrough release for Angel Records, "The Puccini Album, Arias for Piano," rose to number one on the Billboard classical crossover chart, selling more than 80,000 copies. This recording has been heralded as his greatest accomplishment, filling the gap in piano literature. He takes 14 familiar arias from Puccini operas and creates paraphrases that often set the themes in unexpected contrapuntal context and variation.
His newest recording, "Romantica," released in February 1999, features fantasias on great melodies and pieces that make the listener question where does the popular element end, and the classical begin? Other popular recordings are "The Movie Album: Classical Pictures" (Emd/Angel 1996) and "Bach Meets the Beatles" (1987).
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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