According to the biography in the accompanying booklet, Idil Biret
made her first recordings in November 1949 when she was eight.
Since then she has recorded the complete piano works of Brahms,
Chopin and Rachmaninov as well as many other things, including
music by Boulez and Ligeti.
Idil Biret Archive has been set up to issue those of her recordings
which are no longer commercially available and also new recordings.
These two discs are part of her Beethoven Edition which will
include all the Sonatas and Concertos as well as Liszt’s arrangements
of the Symphonies. Both the Sonatas and Concertos are new recordings.
The Symphonies were previously issued by EMI Classics.
have already reviewed the first discs of the Concertos and Symphonies,
both of which are well worth hearing, especially the latter.
The sound on the present discs is fine to my ears, maybe due
largely to the beautiful and clear tone that Ms Biret appears
to be able to obtain in all of these recordings. Although she
certainly commands the necessary power when Beethoven requires
it, she does not use it in the crude or over-forceful manner
that some pianists find necessary whenever they see the direction
ff. Indeed one of her main characteristics is the variety
of sound and articulation that she is able to command. This
enables her to shape each movement with care revealing with
great clarity the various extraordinary changes of character
them the two discs contain all three of the Op. 2 Sonatas, one
each from Op. 10 and Op. 31, and the two smaller Op. 49 Sonatas.
All but one date from no later than 1797 but most are far from
slight pieces. With all the repeats taken, as they are here, the
first two of Op. 2 last for about half an hour each - clearly
no miniatures. I greatly enjoyed her ability to play the more
Haydnesque sections in the kind of crisp and clearly articulated
way which suits them and then to reflect the changed character
of other parts of movements without losing a grip on their overall
shape. This is playing of real insight. The highlight of these
discs was Op. 31 No. 3, in which the kind of lightning switch
demanded by the composer is perfectly caught. I should mention
also that not only are repeats taken when asked for, but that
they are used to make subtle changes in playing the same music
so that it sounds fresh even when being heard for the second time.
The presentation of the discs, currently only available separately,
is plain but helpful, with useful notes by Bill Newman.
extraordinary number of pianists have recorded these Sonatas,
some on two or three occasions. Rather than comparing the present
discs with them, I had rather simply welcome them as the work
of a deeply serious musician of obvious technical mastery and
understanding of the music. They will give great intrinsic pleasure
as well as providing the opportunity, for those who wish it,
to compare them with the performances of her peers. This is
not after the manner of a Beckmesser looking for faults but
rather hoping to gain new insight from different solutions to
the problems and opportunities that these works provide. You
may or may not be convinced by every detail in these versions,
but these are clearly performances which are the result of a
very deep study of Beethoven’s text. The present discs are clearly
the beginning of an important addition to the catalogue.