Turkish-born pianist Idil Biret gained recognition at the age of 16 when she began playing concertos with many of the worlds great orchestras. Her fame grew in the early 1990s from her association with Naxos Records, as her recordings of the complete piano works of Chopin and Brahms became cornerstones for the then-emerging label.
Now, as far as recordings go, Biret is focusing on Beethovens keyboard works, which are being issued on her own IBA (Idil Biret Archive) label. She has played all of the sonatas, concertos, and Liszt transcriptions of the symphonies in concert and is now committing them to disc and download. Continuing its association with the pianist, Naxos is distributing the discs, so will no doubt offer them on its website, Classicsonline, as high-quality download files. The sonata and concerto recordings are new, the former from 2002/3 and the latter from 2008. The symphony transcriptions were first released in the mid-1980s by EMI Electrola.
Based on the first volume in each series, it is the Liszt transcriptions that come across as marvels. Without sacrificing lyricism, Biret plays in a secco, dry style (light on the sostenuto pedal), and the scherzos and final movements of both symphonies crackle with such energy and good cheer that one scarcely misses the orchestra. The interpretations are irresistible, and the recorded sound has singular presence. The first sonata disc features "classical" sonatas, ones that are tackled by most budding keyboard students. These are played with precision, but the recording doesnt have as much presence as the one of the symphonies. The concerto disc pairs Biret with the very capable Antoni Wit, leading a Turkish orchestra. The results are absolutely excellent, though the competition here is fierce and Birets amiable, authoritative readings do not erase memories of Ashkenazy, Serkin, or Rubinstein. But on those symphonies, shes the cats meow, with few, if any, peers.
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