David's Review Corner
, January 2010
When this disc played by the young Idil Biret was released in the mid-1970s, it was hailed as one of the most remarkable piano recordings ever made. It appeared on Finnadar, a label that had a short life and was restricted to circulation in the United States. Since then we have had a veritable abundance of virtuoso pianists who, proverbially, can play this repertoire in their sleep. But that in no way diminishes the impact that Biret made at the time, for she was one of those who raised the level of virtuoso expectations that we have today. Ravel’s Serenade grotesque has never sounded quite so disjointedly grotesque, nor has the scene on the gallows in Gaspard de la nuit emerged so creepily horrid. Those usual washes of sound we hear in the work’s final Scarbo are here waves of notes that have a cleanly delineated content, the ending possessing such admirable strength. Her Stravinsky was no less persuasive, both in the nicely naive approach to Les cinq doigts and Valse pour les enfants, and in tackling the technical challenges of the three extracts from the ballet, Petroushka. This forms the first volume in the ‘Idil Biret Archive’ which is a subdivision of the complete recordings of the great Turkish pianist now being released. It is interesting to read in the accompanying booklet that the pianist we know today for her Chopin, Beethoven and Brahms, was in her younger years placing on disc the latest contemporary repertoire. The piano sounded in need of tuning in two Stravinsky tracks, but Petroushka recorded in London’s Abbey Road Studio is a very different matter and is excellent. Throughout the engineers served her well with clean sound that would pass as a product of today.