Secretariat Idil Biret / Brussels
“The Turkish pianist Idil Biret was one of the greatest pianistic prodigies of the 20th Century. Her recital at the Boston Conservatory last night demonstrated that she is no less prodigious today. She played a long and demanding program with the power, concentration, and pouncing instincts of a crouching tiger…This is the kind of playing that makes reservations irrelevant; there is no one like her, which is what defines a unique artist”.
These were the words of Richard Dyer, the chief music critic of the Boston Globe writing after Idil Biret’s concert on November 29th. This was a memorable event as it was the first appearance of Idil in Boston after forty two years absence since her US debut there on 22 November 1963. That was the tragic day of the assassination of the US President Kennedy which was announced at the intermission of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s concert where, in the second half, Biret performed Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto to a stunned and grieved audience. This year the Boston recital was the first stop of Biret’s US tour of concerts which took her as far as Portland in Oregon and Seattle in Washington. She made radio interviews and signed her CDs after all the US concerts – signing a record of nearly 300 CDs after the two concerts in Portland.
In addition to the US tour, Idil gave concerts in England, Holland, France, Japan, Turkey and Northern Cyprus where she opened the Bellapais Festival in May. Shortly afterwards in June she gave the opening concert of the Bursa Festival in Turkey with a performance of the Grieg Concerto and then opened the Chopin Festival in Paris with a recital on 18 June. Earlier, she played Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Antwerp in the Hague in March at short notice replacing an ailing pianist colleague. There were the appearances with orchestras and recitals in many cities in Turkey including charity concerts in Adana and Istanbul. Biret also participated in the juries of the prestigious Franz Liszt competition in Utrecht, Holland in March and the Ferrucio Busoni competition in Bolzano, Italy in August.
Biret gave many interviews during her concert tours. Her interview for the Bechstein piano magazine in Germany was issued with Biret’s photo on the cover and with a print copy of 500.000. On the occasion of her recital in Tokyo “Musica Nova” and “Classic News” magazines interviewed her. The day before her Boston recital the WGBH classical radio made an extensive live interview with Biret where she also performed works from her US concert tour programs. In Istanbul, France 3 TV interviewed Biret at her home which was shown on 10 September on FR 3 (Mediterranee) as part of a series of the lives of women in countries bordering the Mediterranean sea.
In Turkey Idil Biret had received honorary doctorates from many universities in the past including Bogaziçi, Eskisehir, Hacettepe and Middle East Technical universities. This year Konya Selçuk university was added to these when the university’s rector Prof. Süleyman Okudan put the gown of doctorate on Idil Biret’s shoulders on the 10th of November as part of the ceremonies of the 67th anniversary of Atatürk’s death. Biret made a short speech of thanks followed by a recital for the audience who filled to capacity the large auditorium.
Biret’s active recording work continued in 2005 with a further three Beethoven Sonatas (opp.78, 109, 111) as part of the recording of the complete 32 sonata cycle bringing the number of sonatas recorded to twenty nine. In December an important recording project was completed when Biret recorded the Piano Concerto of Jules Massenet and the two works for piano and orchestra by Cesar Franck, Les Djinns and the Variationes Symphoniques with the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alain Paris. The recording will be released by a French record label in 2006.
Biret’s book project on her life’s experience in the world of music, with particular emphasis on the formative years in France in the 1950s, is nearing completion and will be published by a major French publisher under the title “Idil Biret – Writings, Conversations”. It is expected to reach the bookshops in France in September 2006. English, German and Turkish translations will follow.
A long term project that came by this year was the proposal by a major music publisher to Idil Biret to prepare a new edition of the piano works of Chopin with her commentary notes as performance guide and her own fingering. This project would take a number of years to complete and add Biret’s name to a prestigious group of great pianists who have edited Chopin’s works including Mikuli, Paderewski and Cortot. In this context some of Biret’s own transcriptions will also be published starting with the song transcriptions from Brahms’ cycle “Die schöne Magelone”.
Separately, it was noted that Biret’s recording of a Chopin Etude was in the soundtrack of the Hollywood film “Kinsey” on the life of Dr. Alfred Kinsey (released 2004) together with music by Cole Porter sung by Ella Fitzgerald. Also, interestingly the Vatican Radio broadcast Biret’s recording of Beethoven’s 1st Piano concerto with the Bilkent Symphony orchestra conducted by Naci Özgüç.
In July Biret made a long planned visit to Hawaii , an island chain she wanted to see since her childhood. A week’s stay in the islands of Maui and Oahu began her summer vacation which continued in August at her beloved island Sedef off the coast of Istanbul. During the US trip she also stopped in San Francisco to attend the 100th anniversary celebrations of the family friend Mrs. Helen Miller and also to see her sister Ms. Ruth Robbins whom Idil knew from her childhood years in Paris where “Ruthie”, as her family and friends call, was an assistant and devoted follower of Nadia Boulanger. Idil played for Ruth Robbins at her home in the heights of Berkeley overlooking San Francisco bay with the entire Miller/Robbins families present for the occasion. Sadly, this was to be their last encounter and Ms. Robbins passed away in December at the age of 97 having lived a long life devoted to music.
In 2006 there will be concerts in Germany, the Netherlands, USA, Turkey and tours in Mexico and Brasil. In Germany Biret will play all Schumann recitals in October in Bonn, Wuppertal and Leverkusen in the Bayer series commemorating the 150th anniversary of Schumann’s death. She will also play a recital in Essen during the Bechstein piano competition where she will adjudicate. Another competition where she will be on the jury is in San Marino, Italy in September. In July Biret will be the main participant in the Acanthe modern music courses and ateliers in Metz, France where she will give interpretation classes on the piano music of Ligeti and Boulez among others. She will complete the Beethoven 32 Sonatas recordings with the three remaining sonatas “Hammerklavier”, “Pathetique” and “Tempest”. Schumann and Grieg concertos will also be recorded.