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John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, October 2009

BEETHOVEN, L. van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4 (Biret) – Nos. 23, 28, 31 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 8) 8.571258

BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (arr. F. Liszt for piano), Vol. 3 (Biret) – Nos. 7, 8 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 9) 8.571259

SCHUMANN, R.: Piano Concerto / GRIEG, E.: Piano Concerto (Biret Concerto Edition, Vol. 1) 8.571270

Hearing these three issues in succession from the continuing Idil Biret Archive gave me a much clearer idea of the musical character and strengths of this prolific and wide-ranging artist. 
She is clearly a very serious artist. The range of her repertoire—including Boulez, Brahms, Chopin and Beethoven—tells us that already. She is unafraid of presenting the music without additional surface charm but with great strength and immense technical assurance. The two concertos for instance [8.571270] tend to be slower than is usual nowadays but benefit from carefully chosen and appropriate relative speeds and subtle variation of tone. As with another artist notorious for slow speeds, at least in his later years—Klemperer— there is considerable gain in the resulting ability to articulate the music more clearly. For this reason it can in fact sound much faster than it actually is. There is indeed a freshness about these performances which I found very attractive and which prevents the music from ever sitting down on itself, as can happen at times in these works when heard in unsympathetic hands, especially the Schumann. There is a very happy partnership with the orchestra. Even if you have many existing versions of this popular coupling there is much to be said for adding this to your collection as a very worthwhile alternative.

The other aspect of Ms Biret’s playing is the beauty of her tone, and her ability to create an intricate texture, clarifying the musical argument. This applies especially to the symphonies [8.571258 and 8.571259], which I found mesmerizing, but it can be found in each of the discs. There is no empty virtuosity here, rather a display of the inner workings and character of each movement which is worth hearing no matter how well you think you know the music.

In the old days of 78s, HMV artists were divided into red labels and plum labels—sheep and goats. Public perception tended to follow that division, often unfairly to such artists as Moiseiwitsch who tended to be regarded as inferior just because they were on the “wrong” label. A similar perception may have applied to Ms Biret in the past. I hope that her continuing archive will demonstrate that she is a formidable player and artist whose performances well deserve to be preserved in this way.

I look forward eagerly to the continuation of her distinguished series of the Beethoven/Liszt Symphonies in particular but all of these discs are well worth hearing.

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, June 2009

The three sonatas here were recorded in 2001 and thus are relatively new, at least as reissues go. Biret’s readings of them, as with the others previously released in this series, are full of spirit and ear-opening insights not usually encountered in most performances. The Appassionata brims with passion and power in the first movement, with serenity and majesty in the ensuing Andante, and with drama and a sense of unavoidable fate in the finale. Biret negotiates every technical challenge with seeming ease and makes her interpretation seem almost definitive.

In the Op. 101 she captures the more congenial character of the piece with restrained dynamics and fewer rhythmic accents. Even the second movement march sounds more jaunty than militaristic, and the somber Adagio that follows comes across as philosophical rather than dark. The finale brings back the brighter mood of the opening movement, though here Biret adds a bit more muscle. A splendid reading!

The Op. 110 is a work of great depth, clearly auguring the profound final sonata. Biret’s reading of the first movement exhibits a fine sense for both its majestic character and delicate fabric. But some may find it a bit quirky at times owing to Biret’s little hesitations in the descending phrases near the end of the exposition and reprise. Despite these tiny flaws, her first movement is utterly convincing. The remainder of the sonata is just as imposing, with the brief second movement showing infectious colors and the two-part finale moving from reflective regret to utterly transcendent triumph. Excellent sound in all sonatas.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

For those just coming to the Idil Biret Archive, let me recount that it will eventually offer the complete recordings of the distinguished Turkish pianist made over a period of forty years [See Idil Biret’s Biography & Discography]. Biret’s solo career began at the age of 16 having studied in Paris, Nadia Boulenger and Alfred Cortot named among her mentors. Her subsequent recordings, for a number of labels, receiving critical acclaim. Probably her crowning achievement being the first issue of the complete works of Frederic Chopin. Part of this initial release is devoted to a complete cycle of the Beethoven sonatas recorded in 2001, and as we progress through I am pleased that she does not follow in the footsteps of those pianists who have tried to create an integrated view. I have previously commented that her approach shows the personal approach that Cortot brought to his performances, though I now equally accept the potent influence of Wilhelm Kempff. He too avoids the modern pounding of the piano we find in opening movement of the Twenty-third sonata, the Appassionata. Biret’s unhurried final presto also comes as a welcome alternative to the breathless approach presently in fashion. In matching Kempff’s transparency in the Twenty-eighth, her clean articulation and long shaped phrases all contribute to a singing quality, the finale sparkling as it presses forward. After a muted approach to the opening movement of the Thirty-first, the short central Molto allegro is here played quickly to provide a foil to the imposing fugue, Biret’s closing passage a big heroic gesture. Sound quality is most pleasing.

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