, January 2009
CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Fantasia on Polish Airs / Andante Spianato 8.550368
CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 2 / Krakowiak 8.550369
CHOPIN: Ballades / Berceuse Op. 57 / Fantasie Op. 49 8.550508
CHOPIN: Rondos and Variations 8.550367
CHOPIN: Nocturnes, Vol. 1 8.550356
CHOPIN: Nocturnes, Vol. 2 8.550357
CHOPIN: Polonaises, Vol. 2 8.550361
CHOPIN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1–3 8.550363
CHOPIN: Waltzes (Complete) 8.550365
The Turkish pianist, Idil Biret, has all the credentials for recording Chopin. Among others, she studied with both Cortot and Wilhelm Kempff. She has a prodigious technique and the recordings we have heard so far suggest that overall her Chopin survey is an impressive achievement. Her impetuous style and chimerical handling of phrasing and rubato are immediately obvious in the First Concerto, and she makes a commanding entry in the F minor Concerto; in the Larghetto, too, the solo playing brings a gently improvisatory manner, and the finale really gathers pace only at the entry of the orchestra (which is recorded rather resonantly throughout). Of the other short concertante pieces, the opening of the Andante spianato is very delicate and there is some scintillating playing in the following Grande Polonaise and Fantasia on Polish Airs—and a touch of heaviness, too, in the former. The introductory Largo of the Mozart Variations is a bit too dreamy and diffuse but, once the famous tune arrives, the performance springs to life. Similarly, the introduction to the charming Krakowiak Rondo hangs fire, but again the Rondo sparkles, with the rhythmic rubato nicely handled, though the orchestral tuttis could ideally be firmer.
The Ballades bring impetuously romantic interpretations where the rubato at times seems mannered; the Berceuse is tender and tractable, the Fantaisie in F minor begins rather deliberately but opens up excitingly later; though the playing is rather Schumannesque, it is also imaginative; the three Nouvelles études, too, are attractively individual.
The disc called Rondos and Variations (8.550367) is worth anyone’s money, showing Biret’s technique at its most prodigious and glittering. Much of the music here is little known and none of it second rate. The Nocturnes are a great success in a quite different way: the rubato simple, the playing free and often thoughtful, sometimes dark in timbre, but always spontaneous. The recording is pleasingly full in timbre. The Polonaises demonstrate Biret’s sinewy strength: the famous A major is a little measured by the A flat is fresh and exciting and the whole set commanding, while the Polonaise fantaisie shows imaginative preparation yet comes off spontaneously like the others. The recital ends with a fine account of the solo piano version of the Andante spianato (quite lovely) and Grande Polonaise, which is more appealing than the concertante version.
The three Sonatas are fitted comfortably on to one CD and, irrespective of cost, this represents one of the finest achievements in Biret’s series so far. The Waltzes bring charismatic playing, giving opportunities for exciting bravura, but too many of these pieces are pressed on without respite. The Ecossaises and Tarantelle are also thrown off at almost breakneck speed.