An early 1975 experiment in ‘Direct To Disc’ recording allows us to hear the young Idil Biret in a sound quality to stand comparison with modern piano releases. It was made by a small American label, Finnadar, and, as the technique would suggest, it required the pianist to play the work without a break and without the possibility of editing. Only 5000 LPs were made from that original which has now been re-mastered for this issue. The result is a testimony to the accuracy of her playing and a reminder of the critical acclaim the young woman received for her concert hall appearances. True that neither the Chopin nor Scriabin made massive demands on her technique, but the Prokofiev Second Sonata is a very different matter, the second and fourth movements calling for extremely nimble fingers, and she spares herself nothing in mercurial tempos. The opening of the Tenth is not the highly pressurised reading we hear nowadays, but it has the advantage of leaving much of the excitement for the final movement, played here without today’s brute force. The disc forms the second album in the archive section of the complete survey of Biret’s discography—the previous one reviewed last month—and is evidence of a highly thoughtful musician at home in a wide range of music. Above all it is the clarity of her fingers that I particularly admire. There is a marked difference in the ambiance when we move from the Scriabin to the Prokofiev, but that apart the sound is remarkably realistic.
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