Idil Biret Secretariat Idil Biret – Brussels
Idil Biret in 2010 and moving to 2011
2010 was another a year of travels, concerts, jury work, music editing, master classes and the release of a large number of CDs, now totaling thirty, on Idil Biret’s own record label IBA which was launched internationally in 2008.
The year started with the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Concert Fantasy in January with the Bilkent Orchestra conducted by José Serebrier. Then, Idil traveled to the USA for a recital and master-class at Yale University. In February she went to Poland for concerts with the Cracow Philharmonic conducted by Kazimierz Kord (Chopin 1st Concerto), and for recitals in Lublin and other cities as part of the celebrations there for the 200th Chopin anniversary. In March she was in London for a recital and a performance of Chopin’s 2nd Concerto at St. John Smith’s Square. In April Idil was back in Potsdam for a second recital in two years, this time at the famed Nikolaisaal where her mentor Wilhelm Kempff had played in the past. Kempff’s Children Roland and Irene, who have a house there, were in the audience. In May and early June she gave concerts with the Yale Symphony Orchestra during their tour in Turkey performing Chopin’s 2nd Concerto. The orchestra’s program included Hindemith’s Metamorphosis in remembrance of the work he did in Turkey and as a professor at Yale. A mid-summer concert took Idil to Bodrum (old Halicarnassus) where she played Chopin’s 2nd Concerto and the Schumann Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the opening night of the D-Marin Festival to a capacity crowd of nearly 3500 people. The fall season opened in September with jury work at the Scottish Piano Competition and a recital in Glasgow followed by a recital in France, at the piano festival in Bordeaux. In October she gave a recital in Berlin at the Philharmonie (Kammersaal) and participated in the jury of a piano competition there. This was Idil Biret’s first return to Berlin after her memorable concert with the Berlin Radio Orchestra at the Konzerthaus in 1985 (at the time East-Berlin in DDR). She then traveled to England for recitals for the Chopin Society in London and at the Canterbury Festival. In December Idil was at the Paris Conservatoire for master classes and also a lecture-recital on Liszt with Prof. Remy Stricker
As always there were many concerts and recitals in Turkey, in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Eskisehir, Adana, Bursa, Eregli, Mersin, Assos (at the antique theatre), Kars, Erzurum and Rize. The annual tour with the Presidential Orchestra took her for the first time to the eastern citis of Kars and Rize for concerts. Among the year’s memorable concerts in Turkey were the 80th anniversary celebration recital (with Suna Kan) for Özden Inönü, the daughter of the late Turkish President Ismet Inönü, the recital in memory of the great Turkish educator Türkan Saylan, the two concerts at the Bilkent and at the new 1700 seat concert hall in Bursa (Mozart Concerto K.491) with Maestro Franceso Belli (Idil had played with him in Cuba in 2009) and the recital with Alexander Rudin at Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul where they played the Brahms Sonatas for cello and piano. In May Idil participated at a Chopin Symposium at the Hacettepe University and in November she gave a speech at a conference at the Bilkent University in Ankara titled “Turkish music reforms in the 19th and 20th Centuries”.
It came as a pleasant surprise to learn that early in the Chopin 200th anniversary year Idil’s 15 CD complete Chopin edition, which had won a Grand Prix du Disque in Warsaw in 1995, was published, enclosed in a set of 15 books on the life of Chopin, by the Rzeczpopolitika newspaper in Poland.* The Chopin books were introduced with the following words.
Rzeczpopolitika Chopin Edition 2010 / Unhappy love affairs, homesickness, musical challenges, complicated friendships …What was the real Fryderyk Chopin like? How his great talent was born, what inspired him? Which events were linked to his most moving compositions? All these questions, and more are answered in our collector’s series published in the Chopin Year. Collect all 15 lavishly illustrated albums together with 30 CD’s which contain the complete works by our genius composer in the sensational interpretation by Idil Biret. These recordings were distinguished at the International Record Competition with a Grand Prix du Disque Frederic Chopin (Warsaw 1995). In recognition of the artistry of Idil Biret, the president of Poland Lech Kacznsky decorated her (in 2007) with the Cross of the Order of Merit (Krzyzem Kawalerskim Ordera Zaslugi) of the Republic of Poland for her part in promoting Polish culture with her recordings and concert performances of Chopin’ music.
Idil Biret’s recordings were also enclosed also in a number of books on the life of Chopin published in the US and UK. The following article appeared in the Guardian newspaper in the UK on 6 February, reviewing one of these books:
The life and Works of Chopin “This is the first of what is bound to be a stream of biographies celebrating the bicentenary of the composers birth. But, none, I bet will include as much if any of the music. At least half this audio is devoted to the works played with great passion and even greater panache by the Turkish virtuoso Idil Biret.”
(5 hours – Naxos Audiobooks) Guardian / 6 February 2010
Another pleasant surprise was when, on 24 October as she was giving a recital in London in October, a Chopin Waltz recording of Idil was played on the BBC Desert Island Discs program as the first choice of the UK vice prime minister Nick Clegg.** In March the translation of André Gide’s book “Notes on Chopin” was published in Turkey with a foreword by Idil together with a CD of her recordings of works referred to by Gide in the book. A most important event of the year was the release on the IBA label’s ARCHIVE EDITION eight of the nine LPs Idil Biret recorded in New York in the 1970s for the Finnadar label of Atlantic/Warner Records produced by Ilhan Mimaroglu. Long deleted from catalogues and only available to collectors through e-bay auctions, these recordings which include many 20th Century compositions by Ravel, Stravinsky, Boulez, Boucourechliev, Miaskovsky, Scriabin, Prokofiev and Mimaroglu, were released on CD and digitally on major websites, including Naxos Music Library, ClassicsOnline, iTunes, eMusic and Amazon (for details see www.idilbiretarchive.eu). The New Yorker magazine had written a laudatory article on Idil Biret’s concert performance of the Boulez 2nd Sonata in New York in 1982. This time, with the release of the LP on CD on the IBA label, another article appeared in the June issue of The New Yorker:
The notion that any substantial German influence could affect France’s triumphant achievements in art, fashion, and cuisine would be, well , incroyable. But, music, the relatively weaker sibling has always been more susceptible to developments across the Rhine…In our own time Pierre Boulez (who has lived in Germany) has given the twelve tone techniques of Webern and Schönberg a new level of complexity, as well as exacting, percussive intensity that is a world away from the sentimentality of old Vienna…Idil Biret, a renowned Turkish pianist who was a protégée of Nadia Boulanger and Alfred Cortot, has re-released her acclaimed recording of the iconic Piano Sonata No. 2 (IBA distributed by Naxos), alongside music by Webern and Berg; her crystalline textures and undulating rhythms insure that the spirit of Ravel is never too far away.
The New Yorker /Russell Platt / 21 June 2010
In the ARCHIVE EDITION, the first LP Idil Biret made in Paris in 1959 for the Pretoria label was also released (Schumann Fantasiestücke Op.12 and Brahms Three Intermezzi Op.117). At the time this was the first LP recording released internationally by a Turkish pianist.
Idil Biret’s nineteen volume Beethoven Edition consisting of the thirty two sonatas, five concertos, the choral fantasy and the piano transcriptions of the nine symphonies (by Franz Liszt) has now been completed with the dispatch of the last CD master to the factory for manufacture in December. They were recorded in fifty five days during a long period which spread over of twenty three years. Some outstanding reviews of the Beethoven recordings have appeared as they were released. Two noteworthy examples are below:
Turkish pianist Idil Biret’s series of Beethoven Sonatas is emerging as a major statement in the field, entirely different in emphasis from that of Andras Schiff and the other cycles that have appeared in the recent years. She favors slow tempos and a light touch, which brings out small details, all subsumed within a convincing and well thought-out overall architecture…a summary of insights gained over a lifetime by a veteran Beethoven interpreter. Her playing is precise without being intellectual…Biret’s quiet readings lie at an opposite extreme from the punchy essays of an Andras Schiff…Biret’s set is essential listening for the perfect Beethovenian.
James Mannheim / All Music Guide 2010
When the massive Beethoven / Biret series is issued in the full, it will contain 19 CDs housing the complete sonatas, piano concertos and the symphonies (in Liszt’s transcriptions). It will be a worthwhile monument to keyboard afficianados and Beethoven mavens, for Biret (b. 1941) is one of the finest interpreters of the composer’s works of her generation…All in all these four discs (the first four of the series) augur an excellent introduction to what will probably be regarded as one of the more important Beethoven keyboard projects of the early 21st century. Recommended.
Robert Cummings / Classical Net 2009
The complete Beethoven Edition, a box set of 19 CDs together with two DVDs will be released by IBA in October 2011. The DVDs will contain a documentary on the story of the recording of the Beethoven Edition being made by the young film producer Eytan Ipeker as well as the recording of the Concertos 2,3,4,5 from concerts Biret gave in 2008 with Antoni Wit conducting. ***
In 2010 the American International Music Company (IMC) of New York published the fifth piano score in the ongoing new series of Chopin’s Complete Works edited by Idil Biret. The scores published so far are the following: Tarantelle Op.43, Bolero Op.19, Barcarolle Op.60, Rondos Op.1 and 5, Impromptus Op.51 and 66. The Sonata No.1 is the next piece being edited by Idil which will be published by IMC during the coming year. (See http://www.internationalmusicco.com/catalog.pdf )
A touching event of the year was David Helfgott’s visit to Idil at her home in Istanbul while he was there for a concert. David had heard Idil at a concert in Perth during her Australian tour in 1984 and always wanted to meet her. Shortly after arriving at Idil’s home, David sat at the piano and started playing Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto. Idil then played the orchestral part from memory at the second piano and together they performed the whole concerto. In a world of totally commercialized music, it was a rare moment of pure music making by two great pianists which brought tears to the eyes of the few who were present there that day.
During a press conference after a speech at the Bosphorus University in Istanbul, Alfred Brendel, a friend of Idil for many years, said the following:
“Idil Biret has the energy and intellect also to perform Boulez and Ligeti. She is thus holding the pulse of our time which is very important. I have a great admiration for Idil. I wonder how it is possible that a diminutive woman with such small hands can have the energy to be the master of such a monumental repertory and possess the necessary intellectual capacity for it.”
Another interesting point in the year was a letter Idil sent to Harper’s magazine, after noting that her rendition of the Andante from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony could be listened to at the magazine’s website in a story about Romain Rolland who had played this piece to Mahatma Gandhi in India:
“In a letter published by The Nation in 1931, Romain Rolland describes his meeting with Mahatma Gandhi:
On the last evening, after the prayers, Gandhi asked me to play him a little of Beethoven. (He does not know Beethoven, but he knows that Beethoven has been the intermediary between Mira [Slade] and me, and consequently between Mira and himself, and that, in the final count, it is to Beethoven that the gratitude of us all must go.) I played him the Andante of the Fifth Symphony.
Listen to a performance of the andante movement from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C Minor, op. 67 (1808), in the transcription of Franz Liszt, which Rolland used. Idil Biret performs:”
(See Idil Biret’s letter at http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/11/hbc-90007832 )
This year a most touching statement on Idil’s concerts and recordings was made on the Amazon site by an anonymous writer:
“To tell the truth, I’ m getting a minor case of musical heebie-jeebies when it comes to this artist. Is there any music which Idil Biret cannot master at a high musical level? Or for which she fails to make a vigorous, fair case? Once the entrancing spell of a particular reading on a specific disc fades slowly away, in retrospect I am gripped by a surprise uncanny sense that maybe she is really a super-human woman from another planet – far, far, far, far beyond our galaxy”.
2011 will be a year of some very unusual recording projects starting in January with the Liszt transcription of Berlioz’s Harold en Italie with the eminent violist Rusen Günes following concert performances of this work in Istanbul and Ankara. It will be released as a double CD in the IBA ARCHIVE EDITION together with the Liszt transcription of the Symphonie Fantastique, an LP Idil made for Finnadar in 1979. She will then travel to Cairo for a recital in February. In March, shortly before her recital in Leipzig, Idil will spend a week in Heidelberg recording all three versions of Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes composed in 1826, 1837 and 1851 which will be released later in the year on three CDs. After recitals at the Istanbul and Schleswig Holstein Festivals in June and July, plans are underway for Idil to travel to Havana for a concert with the Cuban National orchestra and also to record two Mozart Concertos K.453 and K.491 with Maestro Francesco Belli. In November, after her recital at the Philharmonie in Berlin, a recording of Poulenc and Bartok concertos for two pianos is being planned with Idil and Viktoria Postnikova with the Bilkent Orchestra to be conducted by Maestro Gennadi Rozhdestvensky. Two months later Idil will travel to New Haven to perform Hindemith’s works with Yale Symphony Orchestra at the majestic 3000 seat Woolsey Hall. She will then record with YSO the two Hindemith works, The Four Temperaments and Concerto for Piano, Two Harps and Brass Instruments.
An interesting event of the year will be the 200th anniversary Liszt Symposium at the Hacettepe University in Ankara between 19-22 October where Idil will give the closing concert (Liszt 2nd Concerto) and also participate in two presentations, one with Prof. Rémy Stricker (Liszt and piano transcriptions) and the other with Dr. Gottfried Wagner (Liszt and Wagner).
* Rzeczpopolitika in Poland (15 Chopin books with Idil’s CD)
** Nick Clegg on BBC Desert Island Dics (Chopin Waltz of Biret)
*** Complete Idil Biret Archive on Naxos Library