I have a confession to make. Until I saw the photo on the cover
of the booklet which accompanies this disk I had no idea that
Idil Biret was a woman! I’d heard a few recordings and been impressed,
but I’d never read a biography or seen a photograph. I am still
impressed, but now I hear her performances in a different way.
I am seeking a special feminine touch, a womanly way with the
is, of course, nonsense for she is a musician first and foremost
and her sex is immaterial to her playing.
new recordings of the first two Concertos of Beethoven, called
Volume 1, are very good indeed. I have never been a big fan
of these two works, preferring the three more mature Concertos,
but Biret has made me listen to then afresh for her interpretations
are alive and vital, she obviously doesn’t see them as early
works, poor relations of the later pieces, but as part of a
set. And not just the beginning of that set either, they seem
to be more a continuation than a start.
First Concerto starts with a bold tutti, Wit hits exactly the
right tempo and sticks with it, indeed, his work compliments
our soloist perfectly, and Biret’s first appearance is calm
and poetic. What follows is a fine example of how to work in
harmony with an orchestra, the give and take, drama and poetry
are all there. This is so alive that it feels like a performance,
one take as opposed to several takes stitched together. The
slow movement was slightly heavier than I expected but Biret
brought out the singing qualities of the music. I really enjoyed
the finale, Biret seeming to bring out what I have always thought
of as a music hall quality in certain passages, and it was quite
riotous when necessary. This performance was a revelation to
me for I had never enjoyed the music as much as here, perhaps
Biret’s somewhat romantic approach helped.
Second Concerto is a more classical work, lighter and more easy-going.
Wit directs a slightly hard-driven opening tutti, and in this
movement he sometimes seems too hard for some of the music which
goes against Biret’s relaxed approach. The second movement contains
some subtle playing from Biret; she employs a lovely colour
to some of this music and her use of rubato is marvelous. The
finale is playful and fun.
two performances are well worth having even if the accompaniment
to the Second Concerto isn’t as sympathetic or subtle as it
is for the first, but it’s Biret you’ll want to hear and you
won’t be disappointed with her pianism.
by John Sheppard