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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.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, September 2009

Perhaps I was expecting more than I should have from this pair of Romantic staples of the piano concerto repertoire. This thought crossed my mind after hearing the first few measures of the Schumann, which failed to soar. This, like the Grieg and so many other great Romantic piano concerto showpieces, demand an interpretational technique altogether different than Beethoven, and so here I was disappointed. Perhaps if Ms. Biret had the advantage of a top-rank orchestra to play with…The Grieg fares only slightly better, but with the tons of other, better recordings by keyboard giants past and present, all I can say is sorry, in my humble opinion this is just another indistinguishable branch on that huge tree.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

If the CD catalogue is burdened down with recordings of the Schumann and Grieg piano concertos, this newcomer still has plenty to offer. Finding such a crowded market, so many young artists believe they have to strive to offer something different to make them stand out from the crowd. By contrast Biret’s main attraction is her simplicity of approach, her performances a carefully considered facsimile of the printed page. They are never breathless and allow phrases to be moulded with elegance and lyric beauty, the splashiness we oft here at the opening of the Grieg replaced by lucid clarity. If Biret shuns self-indulgent virtuosity, when the big moments of both concertos arrive there is no lack of impact. I particularly value the forward momentum she brings to the second movement of the Schumann, removing any feeling of sentimentality, while the finale is taken at a sprightly tempo. The Grieg is equally persuasive and full of imaginative delicacy, the first movement cadenza integrated rather than a red-blooded statement. I would just question the big slowing for the work’s final grand statement, and I feel the Bilkent Symphony are trying too hard to create something monumental. Elsewhere it has given nice support under the experienced baton of Antoni Wit, though I have never heard the flute part in the first movement of the Schumann so strongly underlined. Balance between piano and orchestra is well judged, and the general sound is an honest realisation.

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