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The Complete Idil Biret Beethoven Edition Box set
"A supreme mastery of tempi, sonorities, polyphony and of course technique permits Biret to embrace all the moods of the great Beethoven and gives her playing a symphonic depth rarely heard until now."- Le Nouvel Observateur / H-L de la Grange "The perfo
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Biret (b; 1941) is a Turkish pianist who has had a long career as a performer and who has recorded extensively. She studied with Boulanger, Kempff, and Cortot. She received accolades for her complete recordings of Chopin for Naxos.
The recordings in this Beethoven edition span a period of 23 years. In 1986, Biret recorded the Liszt transcriptions which were released on EMI to broad critical acclaim. Then, in 1994 Biret recorded the first three of what would become her cycle of the Beethoven sonatas. She recorded the remaining sonatas between 2001 and 2008. Also in 2008, Biret recorded the concertos and choral fantasy with the Bilkent Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit. Under the auspices of Naxos, Biret has released her Beethoven Edition recordings on her own label, the Idil Biret Archives.
This set offers a large overview of Beethoven's piano music that Biret plays beautifully. (It does not include Beethoven's variations for solo piano, or his short piano works.) Her playing is in a subdued romatic style with fluid tempos which tend on the whole to be relaxed and deliberate. Her Beethoven playing reminds many listeners of the Beethoven of her mentor, Wilhelm Kempff. The long time span over which the recordings took place gave Biret the time to study and to think about the music. Her readings are careful, individualized and thought through. Although the performances are on the reserved, introspective side, she has moments of strong power and force when called for by the music. For lovers of Beethoven, this is an outstanding set. I offer the following brief comments on each part of the set. Readers seeking more information may wish to consult the reviews of each component or of the underlying individual CDs.
The most essential part of this set is the cycle of the 32 piano sonatas. Idil Biret Beethoven Edition - 32 Piano Sonatas The cycle has been recorded many times because the music is inexhaustible. The critic John Shepphard praised Biret's sonata cycle and described it as "very clearly performances which reflect a very deep study of Beethoven's text." Listeners will find the familiar works, including the Moonlight, Pathetique, and Waldstein sonatas, the five difficult final sonatas, and the many sonatas which may not be as well known, such as, for example, the "funeral march sonata" opus 26, idiomatically and lovingly performed.
The piano concertos and choral fantasy Idil Biret Beethoven Edition - 5 Piano Concertos & Choral Fantasy also have been recorded by many pianists and orchestras. Biret recorded this music with the first professional orchestra in her native Turkey under a conductor of international stature. The orchestra plays well but the focus of these recordings is on Biret. Biret's craggy, powerful recording of the Emperor Concerto is, somewhat surprisingly, the highlight of this set, which also features a strong reading of the choral fantasy and of the first concerto.
Unlike the sonatas and the concertos, the Liszt transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies Idil Biret Beethoven Edition - 9 Symphonies (Transcribed for piano by Liszt) had not been recorded in their entirety before Biret's pioneering reading in 1986. There have since been three additional recordings of the cycle by other gifted pianists. Liszt worked on these transcriptions for many years, completing them in 1866. Liszt wrote that " "[t[he name of Beethoven is sacred in art. His symphonies are nowadays universally recognized as masterpieces. No one who seriously desires to extend his knowledge, or create something new himself, can ever devote sufficient thought to them, or ever study them enough." It was a difficult task to transcribe Beethoven's symphonies for solo piano, but Liszt generally succeeded. Listeners who know and love the symphonies will benefit from the insights offered by Liszt's piano renditions. Biret performs these virtuoso transcriptions convincingly, particularly in her attention to the different voicings, a difficult task on the piano. Of the transcriptions, she is at her best in the Pastoral Symphony, in the remaining even numbered symphonies, and in the slow movements. The transcription of the Ninth Symphony with its choral finale is large and challenging and worth hearing in Biret's valiant performance.
I enjoyed revisiting Beethoven's piano sonatas and concertos and hearing the Liszt transcriptions for the first time in this "Beethoven Edition" of Idil Biret. Biret's Beethoven will reward attention from lovers of the composer and from lovers of music for the piano.