2012 was a year of travels, concerts, jury work, music editing, master classes and again the release of a number of CDs on Idil Biret’s own record label IBA, launched internationally in 2008. It was also the year of a major collaborative work with Yale University on Paul Hindemith who left his marks in both Turkey and USA.
The year started with a setback leading to an opportunity to make two beautiful recordings. In January, the last minute cancellation of a concert and planned recordings with two eminent Russian musicians at Bilkent left four free recording days available with an engineer from Germany ready to record anything Idil may want. She decided to record works of Schumann: The Fantasy Op.17, Sonata Op. 22, Tocatta Op. 7, Kreislariana Op.16, Blumenstück and Carnaval de Vienne. These were then released in the fall on two CDs on Idil Biret’s own label IBA bringing the total CDs released on the label to forty two.
In February, after a benefit concert for the Istanbul Archeological society, Idil Biret went to the US for a concert and recordings at Yale University. The project, which had materialized over discussions with the university over a period of two years, was the recording of all the five piano concertos of Paul Hindemith. Hindemith had made four visits to Turkey between 1935-1937 and prepared three reports with recommendations for the building of classical music life in Turkey which had been the base of reforms leading to the establishment of the state opera, ballet, and the conservatory in Ankara as well as strengthening the orchestra there. Subsequently Hindemith had gone to the US to teach music theory at Yale between 1940-1953. Consequently, in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death in 2013, it was decided to record all five of his piano concertos in a collaborative effort between a Turkish pianist, Idil Biret, and a US university ensemble, the Yale Symphony.Orchestra. At the concert on 18 February in the magnificent 2600 seat Woolsey Hall of Yale University, Idil played Hindemith’s Four Temperaments for piano and string orchestra, followed by the first piano concerto of Franz Liszt (http://news.yale.edu/videos/idil-biret-yso-turkey-and-yale-reunite-sound is the link to the film of the whole concert). Subsequently, the same Hindemith work and the concerto for piano, two harps and brass was recorded and a date was set in December to record the remaining concertos.
In March, after a Caribbean cruise trip she made to relax and regain energy, Idil Biret embarked on a five country concert tour in Latin America. Earlier she had given many concerts in Mexico and played in Cuba and Venezuela. But, this was the first time she would play in Colombia, Peru, Chili, Argentina and Brazil. The recital in Bogota took place in the famed concert hall of the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango where since 1966 almost all the great pianists have performed. The corridors of the back satge area were crowded with the photos of the pianists who have placed there. In Lima the concert with the your orchestra took place at the newly renovated Teatro Municipal Opera where Biret played Rachmaninov’s 2nd Concerto. The orchestra was conducted by Maestro Espartaco Lavalle who spoke fluent Turkish learnt during the three years he had spent in Turkey conducting the Izmir Opera Orchestra. Unfortunately, there was no time to visit the mountain top citadel of the Incas which Pablo Neruda immortalized in his poem Alturas de Macchu Picchu. Then, the trip to Chile with the recital in Santiago became memorable with a visit to Neruda’s ocean front home, Isla Negra, near Valparaíso. The great poet is buried in the garden of the house overloking the ocean. The names of his poet friends who died were carved by Neruda on the wooden beams of the bar room with Nazim Hikmet and Garcia Lorca prominently among them. Idil signed the guest book of honour writing a few bars of the Adagietto of the 5th Symphony of Mahler, a composer whose work Neruda was known to have greatly admired. The trip to Argentina took Idil Biret over the Andes mountains, which Neruda had once crossed on horseback escaping from Chile and a subject of many of Neruda’s poems. The recital in Buones Aires took place in the hall of the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo and was attended by many people who had migrated to Argentina from Turkey. At the reception alter the concert Idil talked with many Armenians who knew her since childhood from her concerts in Istanbul and met the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Latin America who had come to the concert. The stay at the Turkish Embassy residence was emotionally charged since a previous ambasador, Pertev Subaşı, a distant uncle of both Idil and her husband, had passed away in that house many years ago. The trip to Sao Paolo started with a rain storm at the Buones Aires airport. It is customary that when rain storm descends on an airport, accompanied by thunder and lightning, the pilot waits for the storm to pass before taking off. Apparently, this was not indicated in the manual of the pilot flying the Aerolíneas Argentinas aircraft that day for he took off straight into the storm, entering a cumulus cloud, which shook the plane violently for nearly an hour. One could see lightning strikes illuminating the night sky on both sides of the aircraft. The landing in Sao Paolo brought a welcome relief. Sala Sao Paolo, the home of Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra, with 1700 seats was converted from a railway station and is considered by many to be the best concert hall in South America. With parquet covering the floor and stage, surrounded by wood panels reaching the ceiling and Greek style columns on both sides, the hall has marvelous accoustics. The concert was atended by many people who had known Biret only from her many Naxos recordings. A group of admirers told Biret after the concert that they had made a two hour trip by air to come and hear her.
April was spent in Turkey, starting with a visit to the Fenerbahçe Sports Club and its new stadium on the Asian shore of Istanbul. Biret’s father in law was a famous player of the club’s football team in the late 1930s and she saw his photographs in the club’s museum together with those of the great players of the club from the past. She then went to Ankara to participate in the jury of the national piano competition at the state conservatory. This was followed by a recital with the violinist Suna Kan at the Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul where they played the sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms. Idil and Suna had gone to Paris as children for their music education benefiting from a Turkish law and while they had played together many times Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, this was their first duo recital.
In May Idil went to the United Kingdom to give recitals and master classes in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. She played first at the Menuhin School of Music near London and also gave a masterclass there. Idil had performed with Yehudi Menuhin in a memorable recital of Beethoven Sonatas at the first Istanbul Festival in 1973. The great violinist is buried in the garden of the school. She then traveled to Edinburgh for a masterclass at the Conservatory and then to Glasgow for a recital and masterclass at the Conservatory there. A customary side trip to the Scottish Highlands followed with a bus trip from Glasgow to Skye and a two day stay at a fishing village. On the return Biret gave a masterclass at the Trinity Music School at Greenwich near London. A memorial recital in Paris for a recently deceased friend followed. Many friends of Idil there, including Henry Louis de la Grange and Claude Samuel, attended the concert.
At the beginning of June another benefit concert took place in Istanbul in cooperation with the Archeological society, this time for the Sagalassos excavations. The ancient city of Sagalassos, a two hour drive to the north from Antalya, beyond the Taurus mountains has been excavated for over twenty years by a Belgian team of archeologists. Suprisingly, it was for the first time that many in the Istanbul society of friends of archeology came to know about this great city of antiquity which had been destroyed by an earthquake. Idil had visited the site a few years ago and been charmed by its beauty. The three week customary yachting trip at the Aegean sea with friends followed, the days passing with much swimming, rest and work on the electronic piano on board the boat.
The only concert in July was in London with the Whitehall Orchestra at the St. John Smith Sq. hall where Idil played Beethoven‘s 5thConcerto. Then there was a lengthy period of holidays at the island home near Istanbul. In late August she completed recording the CD of works by the Turkish composer Ertuğrul Oğuz Fırat and then went to Ayvalik on the Aegean sea coast near Izmir to give her annual week of masterclasses at the music academy there. The interesting concert of the month was the recital in the ancient city of Bourges, one of the first capitals of France famed with its Cathedral. In October after opening the concert seasons of the Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul with the Ankara Soloists Quartet (Schumann and Brahms Quintets), the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in Ankara (Rachmaninov 2nd), the Antalya State Symphony (Brahms 2nd) she traveled to China for her second visit there after the memorable trip of 1981. She gave a recital at the Beijing Conservatory and also a masterclass there. Then, on the 1ast day of November, she took the bullet train traveling at 300km an hour to Shanghai to participate in the jury of the piano competition presided by Gary Graffman While ther she also played with the Shanghai Philharmonic (Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody), gave a recital and a masterclass at the Conservatory Hall. Upon returning to Turkey she traveled to Denizli and Muğla, cities in western Anatolia, for concerts with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra (Rachmaninov 2nd). A recital in Istanbul at the Enka Hall followed.
In December Idil was back in New Haven to record two of the remaining three piano concertos of Hindemith including the newly discovered concerto for the left hand (commissioned by Wittgenstein but never played by him) with the Yale Symphony Orchestra. The last of the concertos will be recorded in January and a 2CD set “The Complete Piano Concertos of Hindemith” will be released by Naxos in June 2013 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hindemith’s death. While at Yale another important project was launched together with the Music School – the English translation of Hindemith’s reports on Turkish music reforms for an intended publication in the US. In 2013 through the afforts of Biret and husband the Hindemith reports will also be published in Germany by Staccato Verlag (in the original manuscript) and in Turkey by Cenap And Foundation in a new Turkish translation. The last concerts of the year took place in the tumultuous environment of Egypt with recitals in Cairo in Manasterly Palace and the historic Opera House in Alexandria. A visit to the home of the poet Cavafy was the memorable event of her stay in Alexandria.
IBA continued the release of Idil Biret’s recordings which will reach the landmark of one hundred (in LP and CD) with the completion of the five Hindemith concertos. The copyrights of all of those recorded in the past having been obtained, including from DECCA, EMI, ATLANTIC/FINNADAR and NAXOS labels, these are now being released in nine boxes which will all be available in one large set titled IDIL BIRET 100 EDITION. Following the first two boxes, the Beethoven and Liszt Editions released in 2011, the third box in the series, the Brahms Edition with the complete solo piano works and the two concertos was released in December (originally issued by Naxos in 1998). These will be followed by the complete Chopin and Rachmaninov box sets that were released internationally by Naxos in 1992 and 2000. Four other sets will complete the series of nine boxes which are the following:
1) Beethoven Edition – The complete piano sonatas, concertos and symphony transcriptions
2) Liszt 200th Anniversary Edition – All the Liszt recordings of Biret since 1978
3) Brahms Edition – The complete works for solo piano and the two piano concertos
4) Chopin Edition – The complete works for solo pianos and for piano and orchestra
5) Rachmaninov Edition – The complete works for solo piano and all the concertos
6) Solo & Concerto Edition – All the solo piano works and concertos not in the other editions
7) 20th Century Edition – All of Biret’s recordings of the 20th Century composers
8 ) LP Originals Edition – The 14 LPs of Biret in their original jackets
In 2012 the International Music Company (IMC) of New York published the seventh 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, Sonata No.1, Three New Etudes. Allegro de Concert 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 )