Idil Biret Secretariat Idil Biret – Brussels
Idil Biret in 2018 and moving to 2019
2018 was a special year with the release of Idil’s complete studio recordings which she made between 1959-2017 in a box set of 130 CDs, 4 DVDs and a booklet specially prepared for this box (see cover below). There are sixty piano concertos, almost all the major works of the solo piano repertory and many chamber works in the box set. It was the culmination of her work in the recording studios which started in Paris in 1959 and led her to studios in New York, London, Heidelberg, Brussels, Katowice, Ankara and other locations to record for many labels including Vega, Decca, EMI, Finnadar (Atlantic), Naxos and finally her own label IBA. Thanks were due to her many producers starting with Claude Samuel, Ilhan Mimaroglu and continuing with Heinz Jansen, Michel Devos, Martin Sauer, Günther Appenheimer and many others.
Piano News magazine in Germany made the release of the box set the cover story of its May issue. The box had reached the distributors in Germany, France, USA, Japan etc. by June. Referring to the work on the recordings in this set, the eminent American musicologist Prof. Marc Medwin had writtten:
The Turkish pianist Idil Biret celebrated her 75th birthday last November. To approach and honor this milestone, her own label, distributed by the now-venerable Naxos, has been releasing a series of comprehensive box sets traversing her entire career. The word “comprehensive” is not used lightly; in this set alone, the ninth in the series, we hear performances from her earliest radio broadcasts in 1949 to July of 2016, allowing Biret’s changing approaches to these composers’ works full documentation and exploration; it’s quite a journey, and I have heard no other pianist that has made the complex but still intuitively simple interpretive decisions Biret has made…Her career as child prodigy and young firebrand, making her American debut on the day of President Kennedy’s assassination, is a story that should be better known, as should her many recordings of stunningly varied repertoire. She is one of the very few pianists who can make not only convincing but uniquely visionary cases for works as chronologically and stylistically diverse as piano sonatas by Beethoven and Pierre Boulez. As with Alfred Brendel, a pianist of similar distinctions, there is a real sense in which Biret stands at the end of an era. Her approach to the scores, at once quite romantic and intellectually rigorous, places her outside of the bland and cookie-cutter perfection that has become a performance trend in European art music. This seeming dichotomy renders Her Bach and Mozart iconoclastic in the best sense, somewhat difficult upon initial audition but yielding many rewards on repetition…Final impressions, after living with this set for several months, are of a musical life in flux. With these enduring compositions as multisided sculptures to be reexamined, the set constitutes a voyage through the developing art of a child prodigy. It goes a long way toward answering questions about where the preternaturally gifted interpreter goes when convention and career opportunity become subservient to artistic pursuit. May it be an example to those embarking on a similar journey. (Dusted Magazine, USA June 2017)
While too late to find a place in the set, new recordings went on being made. In April, after giving a recital in memory of her friend and producer of many recordings Michel Devos at the Chateau Flawinne in Belgium, she recorded there Debussy’s complete Etudes, Images (Books I, II), Pour le piano and Isle Joyeuse. Further Debussy recordings will be made next May including the Preludes Book I, to be then released on 2 CDs. In September a live concert recording was made of two Mozart concertos, K. 503 and K.595, in England with the Worthing Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Gibbons. These will also be released on a 2 CD set with the two previously recorded Mozart concertos K. 450 and K. 491, with John Gibbons conducting the London Mozart Players.
The year started with performances of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Concerto in Adana and Eskisehir and a recital in Antakya, Turkey. Bach’s D Minor Concerto was I the program of a benefit concert in Istanbul. After a recital at the Middle East Technical University campus in Northern Cyprus, Biret went to the university’s main campus in Ankara and gave two recitals there during the first week of April, the second of which had an all Debussy program for the centennial of his passing away in 1918. Immediately afterwards she gave the opening concert of the Ankara Festival performing Tchaikovsky’s 1st Concerto. Then there were two recitals in England at the Hatchlands Piano Museum and in Dover. A recital in London at Cadogan Hall followed in May. In Istanbul she gave her annual recital at the Süreyya Opera House and then had a pleasant interview, under the auspices of the Rotary Club, with the journalist Zeynep Oral on the subject of the release of her 130 CD complete studio recordings box set. The month of June opened with a concert at the 4000 seat open air auditorium of Bilkent University to a capacity audience with a performance of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Concerto. Then there was the traditional three week boat trip in the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean. In July she performed Mozart’s Concerto K. 595 in Kusadasi followed by a Grieg Concerto performance with the Mugla Municipality Orchestra at the antique theatre of Stratonikea filled to capacity with nearly 8000 people. August was spent, as customary, at the Sedef Island, off the coast of Istanbul. Then there was the masterclasses in Ayvalik this year devoted to the works of Debussy and Liszt. Idil traveled then to Tirana, Albania to give her first ever recital in that country. The month ended with the two Mozart concertos’ performance with the Worthing Orchestra in England.
October was a month of recitals and concerts in Turkey at the Kültür University and ENKA Hall in Istanbul, a concert with the Karsiyaka Chamber Orchestra in Izmir (Mozart K. 595) and a masterclass at the Conservatory in Istanbul. In November and December concerts and recitals in Bursa, Izmir, Antalya, Istanbul were followed by two performances of Brahms 1st Concerto with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in memory of President Inönü whose daughter was in attendance at the second concert. The year ended with a lunch in Paris with Dominique Xardel, the co-author of Idil’s book of memoires and Olivier Bellamy, who had just made an interview with Idil for broadcast on the Radio Classique in the new year.
Two main concerts of the new year will be the performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini on 24 February at the Sochi Festival in Russia with the orchestra conducted by Youri Bashmet. There will then be a recital on 16 April at Salle Gaveau in Paris to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Idil’s arrival in Paris in 1949 as a small child.
The Paris recital program will be devoted to works associated with her early years in the city; Bach’s Fantasie Chromatique et Fugue and a Prelude and Fugue that she recorded for French radio RTF in 1949 and 1953, Schumann’s Fantasy Op. 17 which Idil played for Emil Gilels at the home of Nadia Boulanger which led to an invitation to tour the Soviet Union and a sonata of Prokofiev whose work she recorded for the Vega label in France which gave her first record contract.* There will also be recitals in Brussels and Cambridge and performance of the two Liszt concertos in London. Idil will adjudicate in piano competitions in Aarhus (Denmark) and Istanbul and give a number of masterclasses.
A main event of the year will be publication of Idil’s solo piano transcription of Brahms 4th Symphony by SCHOTT in Germany in the spring. This will be followed by the publication of the transcriptions of 3rd Symphony and four songs from the cycle Die schöne Magelone. Further, a 6 CD set of compilations containing movements from selected works from the 130 CD box will be released. Please see both covers below.
Work is at hand to prepare for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven in 2020. Idil, who is the only pianist in history who has performed on stage and recorded all the pianos sonatas, concertos and symphony transcriptions (by Liszt) of the great composer, intends to perform some or all of the 32 sonatas, 5 concertos and some of the symphonies at various locations.
*A dialogue with Claude Samuel, the producer of Vega records in 1961, made in July 2018 in France, is at the link below: