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Infodad.com, September 2009

BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Concertos, Vol. 3 (Biret) – No. 5, “Emperor” / Choral Fantasy (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 11) 8.571261

BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (arr. F. Liszt for piano), Vol. 5, 6 (Biret) – Nos. 6, “Pastoral” and 9, “Choral” (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 14, 15) 8.571264–65

SAINT-SAENS, C.: Piano Concerto No. 5 / RAVEL, M.: Piano Concerto in G major / Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (Biret Concerto Edition, Vol. 3) 8.571272

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the multitude of Idil Biret Archives releases of the Turkish pianist’s diverse and impressive recordings, both old and new. The Beethoven Edition CDs are really three series in one: the concertos, the sonatas and the Liszt transcriptions of the symphonies. And the Beethoven concerto sub-series is not to be confused with the Concerto Edition, which includes works by composers other than Beethoven. The Beethoven Edition itself is due to have 19 volumes, but Volume 12 has not yet been released—although 13 through [14 and] 15 have. And the various recordings showcase Biret, who was born in 1941, at very different times in her career. The three latest IBA releases include works recorded just last year (Volume 11 [8.571261]); ones recorded in 1986 (Volumes 14–15 [8.571264–65]); and, in Volume 3 of the Concerto Edition [8.571272], a Saint-Saëns performance from 1999, a Ravel G Major from 1998 and a Ravel Left-Hand Concerto from 1996.

[It may help to provide an ordered list here, current at October 2009 – Ed.]

BEETHOVEN EDITION

Piano Concerto
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Concertos, Vol. 1 (Biret) – Nos. 1, 2 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 3) 8.571253
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Concertos, Vol. 2 (Biret) – Nos. 3, 4 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 7) 8.571257
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Concertos, Vol. 3 (Biret) – No. 5, “Emperor” / Choral Fantasy (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 11) 8.571261

Piano Sonatas
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1 (Biret) – Nos. 1, 2, 19, 20 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 1) 8.571251
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Biret) – Nos. 3, 5, 18 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 4) 8.571254
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3 (Biret) – Nos. 7, 21, 25 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 5) 8.571255
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4 (Biret) – Nos. 23, 28, 31 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 8) 8.571258
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 5 (Biret) – Nos. 9, 10, 13, 14 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 10) 8.571260
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 6 (Biret) – Nos. 4, 8, 27 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 12) 8.571262

Symphonies (arr. Liszt)
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (arr. F. Liszt for piano), Vol. 1 (Biret) – Nos. 1, 2 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 2) 8.571252
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (arr. F. Liszt for piano), Vol. 2 (Biret) – Nos. 4, 5 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 6) 8.571256
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (arr. F. Liszt for piano), Vol. 3 (Biret) – Nos. 7, 8 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 9) 8.571259
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (arr. F. Liszt for piano), Vol. 4 (Biret) – No. 3, “Eroica” (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 13) 8.571263
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (arr. F. Liszt for piano), Vol. 5, 6 (Biret) – Nos. 6, “Pastoral” and 9, “Choral” (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 14, 15) 8.571264–65

CONCERTO EDITION

SCHUMANN, R.: Piano Concerto / GRIEG, E.: Piano Concerto (Biret Concerto Edition, Vol. 1) 8.571270
TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 (Biret Concerto Edition, Vol. 2) 8.571271
SAINT-SAENS, C.: Piano Concerto No. 5 / RAVEL, M.: Piano Concerto in G major / Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (Biret Concerto Edition, Vol. 3) 8.571272

What makes this confusion worth wading through are the artist at its center and the intellectual as well as emotional stimulation of hearing her highly organized, carefully structured approach to all this music—an approach that has remained remarkably consistent through the decades. Biret’s formidable technical skill is always placed at the service of carefully analyzed, fully thought-through interpretations that frequently show familiar works in a new light. This is not to say that her readings will be to all tastes. Quite the contrary: her latest CD of Liszt[‘s transcription of Beethoven’s] Ninth—the transcription over which Liszt labored longest and with the most misgivings—lasts almost an hour and a half, putting it at or beyond nearly all the symphonies by Mahler. In fact, the finale—which runs 32 minutes here—lasts nearly as long as Mahler’s longest single symphonic movement (the first movement of his Third Symphony). This…Beethoven for committed musicians who really want to understand the underlying skeletal framework of the composer’s final symphony, hear in great detail how the harmonies are built, how the themes relate to each other, how the careful choice of key structure seems to make the use of a chorus in the finale inevitable—a fascinating realization since, of course, there is no chorus in Liszt’s transcription. This is not at all an accessible performance, but it is one of great depth and intellectual rigor [8.571264–65].

Similarly, Biret keeps things slow and stately for the “Pastoral” symphony: she certainly has the power needed to bring forth the fourth-movement thunderstorm, but she seems more comfortable dissecting the second movement, “Scene by the Brook,” with such care that the usually flowing water seems positively stagnant. Biret pulls apart this music with tremendous care and understanding, but in so doing loses the forward momentum of the symphony as a whole. It is easier to appreciate this performance than to love it—but it is hard not to consider it revelatory. [8.571264–65]
Things are more straightforward in the “Emperor” concerto and Choral Fantasia [8.571261]. Biret prefers deliberate tempos here, too, but not to an inordinate extent. This “Emperor” has genuine majesty, with an especially expansive first movement that marches from start to finish with firmness and dignity. The magisterial approach continues through the second and third movements as well, with Antoni Wit and the Bilkent Symphony providing workmanlike support that keeps the focus on Biret while placing her dominance in a suitable context. In the Choral Fantasia…Biret’s control and ever-present understanding of the music are apparent and attractive, and the choral and orchestral sections complement her solo work very nicely indeed—leading to a rousing conclusion.

…Saint-Saëns’ final piano concerto, known as the “Egyptian” because the composer wrote it in Luxor and it reflects his impressions of Egypt and other areas to which he traveled, has stateliness and sweep in this performance, although the second movement, marked Andante, is a very slow-paced walk indeed. Biret does some particularly nice work with the jazzy finale—a rather forward-looking movement for 1896, especially considering the composer’s reputation as a conservative musical thinker. In Ravel’s G Major concerto, which dates to 1931, Biret pays close attention to the expressivity and nuances of the score…her top-notch technique stands her in good stead in the Presto finale. In the Concerto for the Left Hand, written in the same year, Biret’s intelligent and slightly cool approach brings out the score’s intricacies to fine effect, and the Bilkent Orchestra under Jean Fournet plays with understanding and a good sense of style—as it does in all three of these works. [8.571272]



David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2009

The final installment in an absorbing cycle of Beethoven’s piano concertos from the Turkish pianist, Idil Biret, coming as part of a retrospect of her complete recordings spread over sixty years. I commented in earlier volumes that the series reminds me of the influence that Wilhelm Kempff must have brought to the young Biret. You are immediately struck by the crisp and neatness of her fingers that make tempos sound unhurried, when, in fact, they are quite brisk. That is nowhere more apparent than in the Fifth, where she seems so leisurely in all three movements until you check the overall timing and find she is among the quicker accounts on disc. She also has the ability of making the inner notes of chords so audible, difficult to explain, but just listen to some of those pounding double-handed chords in the first movement and you will hear what I mean. Her central movement certainly has more impetus than most recordings, dynamics throughout being keenly observed. She has equally made me listen afresh to the Choral Fantasia, a work I could do without, but here the big flourishes in the early paragraphs add to the expectation of the big choral finale sung with fervour and skill by the Turkish State Polyphonic Chorus. Throughout Antoni Wit has obtained an excellently balanced support from the Bilket Symphony, though the recording engineer, in this 2008 recording, has rather spotlighted the soloist.






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3:32:33 AM, 21 December 2014
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