Secretariat Idil Biret / Brussels
2002 has been another active year for Idil Biret. In England she recorded Stravinsky’s piano transcription of the complete Firebird ballet music which will be released worldwide by Naxos in the summer of 2003. Another important release in 2003 February will be the Etudes of György Ligeti (Book I & II) which Biret recorded last year. This is her second recording of a contemporary composer’s works for Naxos after the 3 Boulez Sonatas which received a Golden Diapason of the Year award in France in 1995 and sold 30.000 copies in the months following its release. Biret also continued with the recordings of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas reaching the halfway mark in this major undertaking. As sponsors are found the Beethoven recordings are being distributed initially in Turkey (two volumes are already issued) and will be internationally available upon completion of the project together with Idil Biret’s earlier recording of the complete Beethoven Symphonies’ transcriptions by Liszt. Also, after many years of efforts Idil Biret’s recordings of the works of 20th Century composers, produced in the 1970s in New York for the Ertegün brothers’ Atlantic/Finnadar label by Ilhan Mimaroglu, will be released on CD in the spring of 2003 in France. These LPs have become collectors items and rare copies are now sold at auctions on internet sites like e-bay for up to $600. The box set of 4 CDs will include piano works by Bartok, Berg, Boucourechliev, Brouwer, Boulez, Castiglioni, Françaix, Miaskovsky, Mimaroglu, Prokofiev, Ravel, Scriabin, Stravinsky and Webern. As a bonus Idil Biret’s childhood recordings made for the French Radio in 1949 and 1953 will be included in the set with Schumann’s “Fantasiestücke” from her first LP issued in Paris in 1959.
There were many concerts in Idil Biret’s diary in 2002. The most important was her recital in New York in July following an absence there of sixteen years. The Boston Globe’s chief music critic Richard Dyer traveled to New York to attend the recital and reported it in an article on 31 July as follows (excerpt):
“New York – Some of the concerts you attend never leave you and one of these in my life came 40 years ago when a teenager in an electric blue dress played Bartok’s 2nd Piano Concerto in Paris. Idil Biret prowled the piano like a panther, and I had never seen or heard anything like it. Biret awakened the same kind of visceral response in the public that Martha Argerich did a few years later and she has gone on to a career at least as unconventional as Argerich’s…Biret made about 30 recordings in the LP era and beginning in the mid 1980s she began to concentrate more on recording than on concert tours. For Naxos she has made more than 40 CDs, which in aggregate have sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide, a record that can’t be approached by most contemporary pianists more famous than she is…On Saturday night , Biret played her first New York recital in 16 years…She attracted an unusual audience of pianists and pianophiles, and offered an all-Chopin program. The pianist doesn’t look much different from the teenager of 40 years ago and she still has the shy smile. Her playing was vivid, personal, imaginative,…, awesomely secure in the idea and execution. She is a decisive and unequivocal pianist, with a huge ringing, deep belled tone. She also boasts an extraordinary
strength and sense of rhythm, a real backbone ,in this as in her grasp of structure, she is more like a great conductor than a pianist. Instinct and brain are in balance, and her musical thinking is passionate…”
A week earlier, on July 20th, Idil Biret had played the same program of the New York recital at the opening concert of the Chopin Festival in Nohant (France) at the estate of George Sand. Other important concerts were the performances of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto in Moscow and the Ravel Concerto in Aarhus (Denmark) in October , the recital in Rome and the two day program of transcriptions with spoken commentary at the Cite de la Musique in Paris in November, the recital at the Fairfield Hall in Croydon/London in April. Biret also gave two series of masterclasses at the Paris Conservatoire and in New York at the Mannes College of Music. Then, there were the many concerts in Turkey including a performance at the Istanbul Festival in June and a most memorable one in Antakya in October, a recital for the benefit of the newly founded Daphne Music Foundation there.
In 2003 Idil Biret will play in New York, Rome and other cities including unusual places such as Biarritz (France), Brighton (England), Antwerp (Belgium), Nijmegen (Holland). There will be two festival appearances; at the Espoo Festival (Finland) and the Monterrey Festival (Mexico). A Japan tour in the fall is under preparation. Her concerts in Turkey will include a first appearance in Edirne in April and, upon the invitation of the Turkish Armed Forces’ General Staff, a recital at the closing session of an international symposium of the army academies in Istanbul in March. In November Biret will be in the jury of the Messiaen Competition in France. On the recording side she will continue with the Beethoven complete Sonatas project which is expected to be finalized in 2004. Coinciding with the release of the Ligeti Etudes, and later the box set of 20th Century composers recordings, many interviews with Biret will be published in the European press.
Further information on Idil Biret’s work and samples of her music on MP3 format can be found at the English/German language website www.idilbiret.org. A most recent feature there is the live broadcast of Biret’s US debut concert in Boston on 22 November 1963 performing Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto. A new Turkish language site is under construction and will be functional in early 2003.