Idil Biret Beethoven Edition - 32 Piano Sonatas
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"Love of Beethoven' works threads through Biret' life like a red ribbon. Her studio recordings and live concerts show this in an unequivocal language...Next to the Piano Concertos, the Triple Concerto and the Choral Fantasy she has also recorded and perfo
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Between 2009 and 2011, Naxos released Biret's Beethoven sonatas on ten individual CDs before releasing in 2012 this box set of the cycle. I bought and reviewed here on Amazon each CD as it was issued. I tend to prefer individual CDs over sets because they encourage more concentration on individual works. When I decided to review the individual CDs in Biret's cycle, my initial project was to write the reviews as a short introduction to each sonata for newcomers, an approach which may well have been misguided and not entirely helpful. I was glad to have the opportunity to revisit Biret and her sonata cycle through the box set. I relistened to a large cross-section of her sonatas, focusing on works beginning in Beethoven's early middle period.
Biret plays in a subdued romantic style which frequently reminded me of her mentor, Willhelm Kempff. Her tempos are generally slow and deliberate. Her phrasing is rounded and the rhythm is fluid. The hands and the voicing of lines are clear and balanced. Biret uses fortissimo volume only rarely. Her performances show that she has thought through each sonata individually, rather than adopting a global interpretation of Beethoven. She offers a quietly emotional self-effacing reading of the Beethoven sonatas that was fresh to me when I revisited the set.
I enjoyed Biret's reading of the opus 26 piano sonata, the "funeral march" (named after the third movement) because I am currently studying the piece. Biret offers an inspiringly clear reading of the "Waldstein" sonata, opus 53, long one of my favorites. She offers a serious and convincing performance of the rarely heard opus 54 sonata, together with a lyrical renditions of opus 28. Biret recorded the "Hammerklavier" sonata twice, and the reading in this set is slow and serious. I also enjoyed rehearing her performances of the difficult opus 101 sonata, another favorite, and opus 110.
I have used the opportunity Amazon provides to listen to and review a number of Beethoven sonata cycles, as his sonatas are one of my passions in life. In addition to Biret's cycle, I have reviewed over the years the cycles by Kempff, Schnabel, and Annie Fisher, and hope to have the opportunity to review more. It is in the nature of the music that the sonatas are inexhaustible. I have enjoyed and learned from each version. Thus, I want to try to avoid temptation of rating Biret's version of the cycle against the other versions. She is an artist in her own voice with something to bring to the music to the receptive listener. Those listeners new to the sonatas (the audience I envisioned for my initial reviews) will fall in love with them while experienced listeners will enjoy revisiting them. Biret's Beethoven has been well-received by critics although there are relatively few reviews here on Amazon. John Shepphard has offered the following insightful comment on Biret's performances.
"An extraordinary number of pianists have recorded these sonatas, some on two or three occasions. Rather than comparing the present disks with them, I had rather simply welcome them as the work of a deeply serious musician of obvious technical mastery and understanding of the music. They will give great intrinsic pleasure, as well as providing the opportunity for those who wish it to compare them with the performances of her peers. This is not after the matter of a Beckmesser looking for faults but rather hoping to gain new insight to the problems and opportunities these works provide.You may or may not be convinced by every detail in these versions, but these are clearly performances which are the result of a very deep study of Beethoven's text."
Bill Newman's liner notes are a useful initial guide to the sonatas. Biret's Beethoven cycle is an excellent choice for listeners wanting to deepen their understanding and love for the Beethoven sonatas. For those who may be interested, attached are links to the individual CDs in the cycle.
Idil Biret Beethoven Edition 1: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1
Idil Biret Beethoven Edition 4: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2
Beethoven, L. Van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4 (Biret) - Nos. 23, 28, 31
Beethoven, L. Van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 6 (Biret) - Nos. 4, 8, 27 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 12)Idil Biret Beethoven Edition 16 - Sonatas 7
Idil Biret Beethoven Edition 17: Piano Sonatas 8
Idil Biret Beethoven Edition 18: Piano Sonatas 9
Idil Biret Beethoven Edition 19: Piano Sonatas 10
Beethoven, L. Van: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 5 (Biret) - Nos. 9, 10, 13, 14 (Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 10)
Idil Biret Beethoven Edition, Vol. 5