David's Review Corner
, November 2010
We have reached the eighth disc in the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven from the Turkish pianist, Idil Biret. It forms part of an immense undertaking to release all of the recordings made by her over a long and distinguished career. Of that I have already written at length, but for newcomers let me briefly add that it was at the age of nine that she made her first recording for French radio. In the following sixty years she has recorded over eighty discs for commercial release, to which she has recently added further recordings so as to complete cycles of works, the Beethoven sonatas being part of that ‘completion’. She was a pupil of Nadia Boulanger and Alfred Cortot and much influenced by Wilhelm Kempff, her Beethoven showing the rectitude of Kempff and the spontaneity of Cortot. The Eleventh and Sixteenth are not often heard in the concert hall, recordings having rather kept them alive. I suppose you can fall in love with the Minuet from the Eleventh, and be excited by the opening movement of the Sixteenth. But then you arrive at the Seventeenth, known as The Tempest, and we are on a different level of musical inspiration. Biret does not make the mistake of allowing the music to overheat, for the composer was referring to Shakespeare’s play and not the meteorological storm we often hear. As with the previous discs, Biret’s playing has commendable clarity, and, unlike many cycles, she does not allow one stylistic approach to be common to all. The recording sessions date from 2002–2006, and have a warm and pleasing sound.