2008 was exceptional as during this year Idil Biret’s own record label The Idil Biret Archive was launched internationally. In December IBA joined the Naxos family of labels being distributed worldwide on CD as well as digitally on major websites, including Naxos Music Library, ClassicsOnline, iTunes, eMusic and Amazon. The IBA label made its debut with four volumes from the 19 volume Beethoven Edition which includes the 32 Piano Sonatas, 5 Piano Concertos, the Choral Fantasy and Liszt’s transcriptions of the 9 Symphonies. The Sonatas and the Piano Concertos are new recordings. The Liszt transcriptions of the Symphonies were originally issued by EMI/Electrola in 1986. The newly recorded concertos of Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Grieg and Schumann as well as the legendary and long unavailable recordings Biret made for Ahmet Ertegün’s Atlantic/Finnadar label with Ilhan Mimaroglu as the producer in New York in the 1970s will be released in the coming months and years.
Idil Biret described her feelings on this momentous event in her life by saying,
“To have the freedom to decide what kind of repertory to record is a most exhilarating feeling a musician can experience. The establishment of the Idil Biret Archive label with worldwide distribution by Naxos is simply the realization of a wish, a dream coming true for me.”
Information on IBA can be found in the website www.idilbiretarchive.com
During the year Idil traveled to Poland, Russia, Switzerland, England, Belgium and USA for concerts, adjudicating in competitions and speaking on radio as well as giving concerts in Turkey and Northern Cyprus.
In January during a two week period she recorded all of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos and the Choral Fantasy with Bilkent Symphony in Ankara conducted by the music director of the Warsaw Philharmonic, Antoni Wit for release on IBA. She also performed the Beethoven concertos 2,3,4 and 5 in two concerts there. In addition to the regular concerts in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara she traveled to Antakya, Gaziantep, Erzurum, Bodrum for concerts and to Ayvalik for her annual master classes in Turkey. The two recitals, a Chopin and a Liszt, at the newly restored Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul were particularly memorable. Idil made also two trips to Northern Cyprus for recitals in March and November.
In April Idil traveled to Poland. Two concerts took place with the Warsaw Philharmonic directed by the eminent Czech conductor Vladimir Valek with Idil performing the Schumann Concerto. After a recital in Gdansk, Schumann Concerto was repeated with the Lublin Philharmonic. While in Lublin, a pleasant surprise for Idil was the proposal to publish in Polish language translation her book “A Turkish Pianist on the Concert Stages of the World”. The publication will be undertaken by the Publishing House of Marie Curie-Skłodowska University of Lublin. Ms. Teresa Ksieska-Falger, the artistic director of Lublin Philharmonic who initiated the project wrote the following memorable lines to Buchet/Chastel in France regarding the copyright of the book,
“The circumstances of this project are unique. In 2010 we shall be celebrating the 200th anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin’s birth (March 1st, 2010). In Polish culture Idil Biret is an icon and ambassador of this composer on a world scale. Therefore, I believe that making Polish readers familiar with the figure of this outstanding pianist, both with respect to her life and work, is highly justified. It will be perfectly inscribed into the atmosphere of celebration, full of emotions.”
A major event of the Month of May was the BBC Radio3 broadcast of the complete works of Chopin during the weekend 18/19 when Idil participated in a Saturday night panel hosted at BBC by Rob Cowan together with Tamas Vasary, Stephen Kovacevich and other musicians and musicologists. The eminent Polish historian and Chopin biographer Adam Zamoyski participated in the discussion from Warsaw by telephone. Many of Idil’s Chopin recordings were broadcast during the weekend and she also played the Tarentelle live during her panel participation.
The Sviatoslav Richter Competition in Moscow in June gave Idil the opportunity to return to Russia, a country where she feels very much at home since her first concert trips there in the 1960s. The competition, with the participation also of Bella Davidovich, Viktoria Postnikova, Tamas Vasary and Valery Affanasiev in the jury, took place at the great hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire where Idil had given her first Moscow recital in 1960 which had been attended by Aram Khachaturian and many other musical personalities of the time. During the Richter competition a Lithuanian musicologist Gerard Kimeklis who had attended Idil’s fist Moscow recital came to talk to her saying that he could never forget the way she had played a Chopin Etude (Op.25 no.11) at that concert. Mr. Kimeklis is now working to arrange a Russian translation of Idil’s book to be published there. Visits to the homes of Richter, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy and Chaliapin were among the high points of the memorable Russian trip.
The summer holidays passes pleasantly with a blue trip in the Aegean and the stay at the Sedef island in Istanbul where Idil swam for long hours each day. Recitals at the Rumelihisar fortress in Istanbul (built in 1453) and at the castle of Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus) interrupted briefly the peaceful days of rest with hectic activity that always surrounds open air concerts.
The important events in the fall were the recital in Brussels at the Belgian Flanders Festival in September and participation in the jury of the Geneva Competition in Switzerland in October. In November, after giving three concerts with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in Ankara for the reopening of their newly refurbished hall where she performed Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and Rachmaninov’s Rhapsoy, she traveled to the USA, to New Orleans, to give a benefit recital there for the musical arts society of the city. December was the month of the release of the first four CDs on the IBA label which attracted much press attention. Idil traveled to Paris to give interviews at the France Musique and Europe 1 radios.
Finally, the production of the documentary film on Idil Biret’s life and musical activities advanced considerably during the year. The project is now included officially as one of the events in the program of year 2010 (when Istanbul will be one of the cultural capitals of Europe). Its premiere is expected to take place during the first week of June 2010 when Idil will also play the two Chopin Concertos with the Warsaw Philharmonic in Istanbul for the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth.
2009 promises to be another active year with concerts in Potsdam, Philadelphia New York, Houston, Caracas, Havana, London, Athens, Brussels, Paris and in New Haven at the Music School of Yale University (Sefik’s alma mater). Adana, Diyabakir, Mersin, Antalya, Eskisehir, Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul are among the cities of Idil’s concerts in Turkey. A return to the Caucasus region where Idil played often during her tours of the Soviet Union in the 1960s is also under consideration. Work is also underway for the translation of her book into Greek and Armenian languages for its eventual publication in these countries.