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
was an immensely enjoyable disc which I can wholeheartedly
present disc is not one that I can be quite as enthusiastic
about although these are far from negligible performances.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.