IDIL BIRET performed the Liszt transcriptions of all the nine Beethoven Symphonies at the 1986 Montpellier Festival in four recitals which were also broadcast ‘live’ by Radio France. This was the first know public performance of the series in this entirety.

The same year she made the world premier recording of the complete set of the nine symphonies for EMI / His Master’s Voice (EX 270479-3, six records, digital).

Gramophone, London
  From the outset of the First Symphony one feels that Idil Biret grasps the size of Beethoven’s style. The polyphony is laid out in a relaxed way with little indulgence in point-making. She keeps her big line, and yet is thankfully sparing in her use of fortissimos. I especially admire how she is able to give the impression of a live performance in the Larghetto from the second, and here, as in other slow movements, one is reminded that her mentor has been Wilhelm Kempff. Likewise, in the Funeral March from the Eroica one senses the solemn grandeur of the orchestral score, and Biret’s gentle and almost sensuous sonorities in the mayor section are really captivating. The Pastoral thrives on Biret’s strength as a colourist. This performance is also quite a tribute to the piano as an instrument. The first movement is bathed in a golden sound, with an ethereal cantilena pervading the entire Andante that follows. This movement is nearly 18 minutes long, and yet Biret’s serenity carries one along. Of all the music on records it is the storm that is the most Lisztian, the massive effects creating a spine-chilling climax… The piano tone throughout is sumptuos… This is a remarkable achievement.
J. Methuen-Campbell, March 1987
Gramophone, London
  It may seem bizarre to play Beethoven Symphonies on the piano, but Idil Biret obviously does not think so, and she justifies this view in her remarkable set of the Liszt transcriptions of all nine
J. Methuen-Campbell, December 1987
(“Critics’ Choice” 1987)
Hi-Fi News, London
  Idil Biret, a Turkish artist and a former pupil of Wilhelm Kempff, is the first pianist to complete all nine Beethoven Symphonies in Liszt’s transcription. These are not merely interesting to hear how he tackled such problem areas as the adagio introduction to 4 (inevitable tremolandi !), but the skeletal presentation illuminates many harmonic progressions that tend to pass without appreciation, the orchestration diverting attention. Consequently one experiences the music anew; additionally there are Idil Biret’s own interpretative ideas. She never resorts to routine… And it seems to me very much playing in the Kempff Beethoven mould. I was captivated by these realisations.The unfolding of the finale theme in 9, before the baritone entry is daringly slow and Furtwänglerian. Indeed, her speeds are often very measured… Yet it works. She clearly loves the sustaining powers of the instrument… Hear her immersed in the music, at sparkling best in the finale of the Fourth – there you have a mirroring of the classic Krips/Concertgebouw recording.
Christopher Breunig, March 1987
New York Magazine, New York
  Listening to Beethoven through Liszt’s keyboard transcriptions can put a fresh perspective on these familiar symphonies. Idil Biret… has taken on the complete cycle, and I admire her taste, technique and sound musical decisions.
Peter G. Davies, March 1987
Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris
  Idil Biret gives an impressive performance of the complete Beethoven Symphonies’ ingenious transcriptions by Liszt… A supreme mastery of tempi, sonorities, polyphony and of course technique permits Biret – a disciple of Cortot and Nadia Boulanger – to embrace all the moods of great Beethoven and gives her playing a symphonic depth rarely heard until now.
Henry-Louis de la Grange, January 1987
Corriere Della Sera, Milan
  Last year she has performed, in concerts, the complete nine symphonies of Beethoven, transcribed by Liszt; and also recorded them for EMI… The performance of the eighth symphony succeeds in the sustained tension; the prominence of logic in building up the colours; the autonomy as well as the interplay of the parts… She conquers by dominating the whole, with an implacable left hand in the Allegretto or with lightness in the fury of Allegro vivace.
Franca Cella, December 1987
(after a live performance)
Fono Forum, Munich
  Universally gifted pianists like Idil Biret, who for various reasons do not limit themselves to a cleverly selected repertory are nowadays very rare… With the recent release of the Beethoven/Liszt Symphonies international recognition should be secure for her.
Peter Cossé, December 1986
Münchener Merkur, Munich
  Idil Biret has recently recorded Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s nine Symphonies for EMI. What an authentic Fifth Symphony it was, rendered in a live performance in her Herkules-Saal recital receiving a thundering ovation.
Helmut Lochmüller, November 1986
(after a live performance)
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Frankfurt
  Her performances, in fact, impress in a very special “pianistic” way. Biret aims at underlining details with an emphasized articulation and, on the whole, with a more transparent and colourful performance. Liszt’s piano transcriptions, however, seem to demand all ten fingers at the same time, quite often. In order to carry through her priorities, she has to take slower tempi in many movements, compared to the familiar tempi of the conductors. In this way, she is able to display the characteristic value of the piano transcriptions better than her male colleagues, requiring the listener to hear the piano versions without recalling the originals.
Ingo Harden, December 1987
Le Soir, Brussels
  Idil Biret, a pianist well known to us, has devoted four recitals at the Montpellier Festival to Liszt’s transcriptions of the nine Beethoven Symphonies. I heard her performances of the Fifth and the Seventh which may have been the most exemplary. She played these often talked about but rarely performed work with spirit, great technical ease, breathtaking virtuosity and implacable energy.
Jacques Mairel, August 1986
Arts Magazine, Brussels
The recording of the Beethoven Symphonies’ transcriptions by Liszt was an arduous and perilous task. A superabundant technique, an aspiring style, a well grounded reflection were necessary. The orchestral tempi may not have always been suitable to the pianist, and the orchestral chords do not vibrate on the piano. The dynamic range of the piano being inferior to that of the orchestra, it is imperative that crescendi and musical breathing are conducted in a different way. Other difficulties originate from the character of the accentuation or the opposition of the nuances.Idil Biret fully possesses all these qualities of intelligence, musicalitiy and virtuosity.

She realises everything on a grand scale. She keeps the works in the unity of their respective structures. The independence of the hands, and within this context the polyphonic independence entrusted to each hand is astonishing. The strict firmness in the dose of power and colour ease the progress of the score. Clear and immediately audible to the ear, this progress is maintained. Because, handling the pedal with an unprecedented art, Idil Biret uses it to vibrate certain high-pitched harmonies or fundamental base notes rather than to amplify the force of the sound. Force, though never brutal, she possesses in plenty. But, also the ultimate pianissimi, tenuous, always timbred – those which in a concert carry all the way to the end of the concert hall.

The Scherzo of the Eroica or the Allegretto of the 7th are convincing in every respect. Once the ear is accustomed to the slower tempi of this complete set, the Funeral March of the Eroica, the Scene by the Brook of the Pastoral and the Menuetto of the 8th impress by their breadth, and in turn by their dramatic penetration. The other symphonies, more closely knitted in the text, are engraved with the same success, the same ease…

Idil Biret has just put her signature to an impressive achievement. Bravo !

Jean Germain, December 1986