Idil Biret in 2014 and moving to 2015

2014 was another year of recordings travels for concerts, jury work and master classes. The first recording of the year was in March; Scriabin’s Etudes Opp. 2, 8, 42 and the Fantasie Op. 28. Then, in May Biret recorded with the Borusan Quartet of Turkey, Schumann’s Piano Quintet in Heidelberg. In September, she joined her old friend, the German cellist, Roderic von Bennigsen to record the two Sonatas for cello and piano of Brahms at a chateau near Namur in Belgium. The last recordings of the year, in December, were two Mozart Piano Concertos, K.415 and K.453 with the London Mozart Players conducted by Patrick Gallois. The Scriabin CD is due for release by Naxos in January 2015, on the Centennial of Scriabin’s death (1915). The Brahms and Mozart CDs will also be released in the spring 2015 together with an Archive Edition release of Brahms Piano Quintet which Biret had recorded with the London String Quartet in 1982. The Schumann CD was released in the fall of 2014 together with a 2CD set of Biret’s transcription for solo piano of the Brahms Symphonies 3 and 4 recorded in Paris in the 1990s. About the Brahms CD The Sunday Times wrote in September: “There’s something stirring itself about listening to grand familiar masterpieces cast in another mould…Biret’s own transcriptions splendidly achieve an authenticity in these live recordings. No. 3’s poco allegretto is particularly touching, nostalgically haunting, and No. 4’s always astonishing opening has an arresting delicacy.”

The release of the box sets in the IBA 100+ EDITION continued in 2014 with the Chopin Edition (15CD) and Schumann Edition (8CD) sets. Early in 2015 the Rachmaninov Edition (10CD) set will be released followed by the Concerto and 20th Century Works Editions. In 2015 recordings will start for the final box set of the series, which will be the Bach Edition containing the Well Tempered Clavier Books I and II and other works of the composer.*
The concerts of the year started with a performance of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto at the new Zorlu Centre in Istanbul with its 2500 seat auditorium filled to capacity. This was followed by the mid-winter break of a long trip to Honolulu and from there to Tahiti with a cruise crossing the equator by ship for the first time. Returning in March Biret played many recitals, concerts with orchestras and chamber music in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Bursa Adana and Antalya. June was the traditional month for the blue cruise in the Mediterranean with friends, interrupted by a trip to Istanbul to give the commencement speech for the graduating class of Sabanci University. She spoke there on the music reform movements in Turkey during the 19th and 20th Centuries, closing the speech with a sharp attack on a new law being drafted by the government; if passed this law could lead to the closure of the state orchestras, opera and ballet companies established by the young Turkish Republic in the 1930s and 1940s which have made the country an oasis of classical music in the desert of Islam in this respect. New York Times took note of the speech and passages were quoted in an article titled “Challenges Test Turkey’s Classical Music Ensembles” which appeared on 10 July.

At the end of August Biret went to Warsaw to give a series of recitals as part of the celebrations of the 600th year of establishment of relations between Poland and Turkey. This was followed by the week of master classes in Ayvalik, at the Aegean coast of Turkey. In October she gave a recital at the UNESCO Assembly Hall in Paris followed by a tour of England in November. There she played on Chopin’s own Pleyel piano which he brought to England for his concerts there in 1848. The recital took place at the Cobbe Collection of historic keyboards, harpsichords and pianos at the National Trust home in Hatchland park. This was followed by master classes at the Birmingham Conservatory and the Guildhall School of Music in London. Finally, she played Brahms First Concerto in London at the St. John Smith Sq. hall. While there Idil also had an interview at BBC Radio on 22 November, the day after her birthday, in celebration of the release of her 100th recording. The producer of the program ‘Music Matters’ introduced her with the words, “One of the world’s best selling musicians of all time, the Turkish pianist whose repertoire takes everything from Bach to Boulez, from Liszt to Ligeti and everything pretty well in between, who sold nearly three million records, Idil Biret…Her recorded legacy is being celebrated right now with the release of the 100 recordings she made since 1959 in nine box sets.” Excerpts from Idil’s recordings of Chopin, Brahms, Scriabin, Hindemith and Boulez were played during the interview which followed. Afterwards, she returned to Turkey in December for a series of concerts in Samsun on the Black Sea coast and then in Istanbul, to end the concerts of the year in the 2000 seat Lütfi Kirdar Hall playing the Brahms First Concerto to a capacity audience.

Sadly, her recital booked at the Carnegie Hall in New York, scheduled for 2 December had to be cancelled when the main sponsor dropped out due to the economic uncertainties in Turkey following a series of political/financial scandals in December 2013.

The good news of the year was that the documentary film on the life of Idil Biret, on which work started in 2008, is nearing completion. It is based on the book “A Turkish Pianist on the world stages” published in France by Buchet-Chastel, in Germany by Staccato Verlag, in Turkey by Can Yayinlari and is being produced by the young cineast/pianist Eytan Ipeker with his colleague Yoel Meranda. The support which came this year, from a donour who wants to remain anonymous, has helped the work to be finalised. The few years of inactivity in the project had a beneficial side with the discovery of some very important material during that period in the French National Archive Institute, INA. Firstly, the sound recording of a TV show in France was found where Idil appeared as a guest of Arthur Rubinstein in 1955. Rubinstein introduces Idil to the audience with the words, “In Paris I met a young Turkish pianist, presented to me by the great French musician Nadia Boulanger. I was fascinated, I had tears in my eyes when she played. I predict a great future for her.” Whereupon Idil plays a work by Brahms for Rubinstein and the audience. Then, most recently, a short film of Biret playing the Berg Piano Sonata to Nadia Boulanger at her home came to light. Both will now be incorporated into the documentary together with the recording of her Liszt Concerto 1 performance at the Woolsey Hall of Yale University in 2013. The nearly one hour film will be sent to a number of important documentary film festivals around the world in 2015.

Then, on the last day of the year the below message came from a Polish friend,

“I don’t know if you follow the Chopin Institute website – from time to time they put on Idil’s recordings and on Christmas Day the following featured. The caption says the ‘Scherzo is magnificently interpreted by Idil Biret’. And so say all of us!!”

Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina
24 December at 00:00 •
Kolęda stanowi inspirację dla wielu twórców dla Fryderyka Chopina, który wykorzystał jej motyw w środkowej części swego Scherzo h-moll op. 20.
Fryderyk Chopin – Scherzo h-moll Nr 1, Op. 20 (Idil Biret)
Scherzo h-Moll Op. 20 Nr. 1 Fryderika Chopina we wspanialym wykonaniu Idil Biret

2015 will then again be a year of many recordings, mainly the works of Bach, and concerts in Turkey, Europe with a tour of South Africa where she will be returning after her first tour nearly three decades ago.

1) BEETHOVEN ED. 19CD+DVD / The complete piano sonatas, concertos and symphonies
2) LISZT ED. 9CD+DVD / All the Liszt recordings Biret made between 1978-2011 including the two piano concertos
3) BRAHMS ED. 13CD / The complete piano solo work and the concertos
4) CHOPIN ED. 15CD / The complete piano solo works and the concertos
5) LP ORIGINAL ED. 14CD / Pretoria, Vega, Decca, Finnadar (with original covers)
6) SCHUMANN ED. 8CD / All the Schumann recordings Biret made between 1992-2014 including the complete work for piano and orchestra
7) RACHMANINOV ED. 10CD / The complete piano solo works and the concertos
8) CONCERTO, SOLO and CHAMBER MUSIC ED. 12CD/ All the concerto, solo and
Chamber music recording not included in the other boxes: Brahms Piano Quintet, Cello Sonatas,
Symphony 3 Transcription; Saint- Saens Concertos 2,4,5; Ravel G minor, left hand Concertos;
Liszt 1,2, Concertos and Totentanz; Mozart Concertos K.415 & 453; Tchaikovsky 1,2,3,
Concertos and Concert Fantasy; Concertos of Grieg, Schumann, Massenet; Franck
Variations Symphoniques, Les Djinns; Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique et. al.
9) 20th CENTURY ED. 13CD +DVD / All the recordings of 20th Century composers: Boulez, Ligeti, Stravinsky, Bartok, Hindemith, Schönberg, et. al.
10) BACH ED. 6CD / Well Tempered Clavier and other works