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Alan Becker
American Record Guide, February 2010

This is Volume 5 of Biret’s Beethoven sonata series. It’s also Volume 10 of her Beethoven Edition, which covers the concertos and symphony transcriptions as well. IBA (Idil Biret Archive) is the pianist’s own label. Naxos distributes it, and it is also sold at budget price.

Turkish pianist Biret is always reliable and sometimes considerably more than that. Sonata 14 is the most familiar here. This Moonlight’s Adagio sostenuto is fairly straightforward but still reasonably evocative. Biret’s tendency to clip phrases is most apparent in the ensuing Allegretto, and the final Presto agitato is appropriately restless, yet controlled in its cumulative development.

Sonata 13 is more interesting structurally. Biret has a full grasp of its subtleties and is usually aided by her crisp tone and the excellence of the engineering. If the Adagio sounds a bit portentous, the final Allegro Vivace is thrillingly relentless and executed with minimal pedal to boot.

The remaining sonatas hold few surprises or interpretive aberrations. Biret’s tendency to clip some notes or phrases is part of her technique and is rarely annoying. These are not performances of strong romantic feeling, and that alone will recommend them to some of our readers and frighten others away.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2009

Biret is avoiding the unified view of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas that has prevailed in many other recorded cycles, opting to take each one at face value and to play it is a stand-alone work. She regularly adds a personalised approach that comes from her teacher Alfred Cortot, often rhythmically free and not averse to rounding off phrases with a marked slowing. The Ninth and Tenth seldom show up in the standard recital repertoire, the thematic material just never becoming popular, Biret opting to offer the Ninth’s delights in short sound-bites, an approach that works more readily than trying to create long flowing passages. The Tenth by contrast finds Biret enjoying the decorated atmosphere of the filigree, her fingers creating crystaline passages of infinite charm. Sample track 6, the naughty little scherzo that completes the score, to hear her at her most appealing. In the Thirteenth we have a more commanding score, with quirky turns of harmony in the first two movements, their abrupt changes of pulse bringing an immediate attraction. Biret makes another change of gear for the ‘Moonlight’, moving the opening Adagio at a unhurried pace but still avoiding the funereal tempo we often encounter, while the final Presto is more dramatic than often the case, the whole account much weightier than in the earlier sonatas. The good sound quality is similar throughout, though four years separate the recordings, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth coming from last year’s sessions.

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