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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major Op. 15 [36:16]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major Op. 19 [31:22]
Idil Biret (piano)
Bilkent Symphony Orchestra/Antoni Wit
rec. January 2008, Bilkent Symphony Hall, Ankara, Turkey
Idil Biret Beethoven Edition No. 3
IDIL BIRET ARCHIVE 8.571253 [67:38]
Experience Classicsonline

My introduction to the Idil Biret Beethoven Edition, which will eventually include all the Sonatas and Concertos, was the first volume of Liszt’s arrangements of Beethoven’s symphonies (see review). This was an immensely enjoyable disc which I can wholeheartedly recommend. The present disc is not one that I can be quite as enthusiastic about although these are far from negligible performances.
The main problem for me was with the recording. It is certainly clear, but the balance is wholly unrealistic. The wind and brass are too far forward, even more so the solo piano, and I found it difficult to play it at a volume which would make it sound more natural. If played so that the soft solo passages sound soft and the woodwind do not appear to be next to you, the strings, and especially the second violins, tend to disappear. If played loud enough to prevent this, the soloist appears to be playing at never less than mezzo forte.
The orchestra was founded in 1993 as a project by Bilkent University in Ms Biret’s native Turkey. It has clearly achieved much since then and it is very much equal to its task. I was troubled only by some occasional lack of imagination in the playing or inconsistent phrasing between players. Antoni Wit is clearly an experienced and helpful accompanist, and there is a real feeling of lively collaboration between soloist and orchestra.
Idil Biret is always a positive player. Without being fussy or intrusive, she is very much alive to the changing character of the music. Her playing in quiet passages is especially lovely. The slow movement of the First Concerto is taken at a speed which does not over-extend the musical phrases but manages nonetheless to sound unhurried. I am not convinced of all of her musical decisions – the alla turca section of the Finale to the First Concerto for instance lacks the kind of wildness that other pianists have brought to it – but her playing, above all her articulation and phrasing, is always interesting. Never for a moment did I feel that she was playing these works merely to complete a set of the complete concertos. This has sometimes been a problem with others where one feels that the soloist is really waiting for the last three works and has nothing individual to say about these two early works.
Despite my concerns over the recording, I obtained much pleasure from listening to this disc. Others may not be as bothered by the balance as I was, and even if you are Biret’s readings provide real alternative insights.
John Sheppard

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