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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, op.15 (1795/1800) [36:16]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, op.19 (1788/1801) [31:22]
Idil Biret (piano)
Bilkent Symphony Orchestra/Antoni Wit
rec. January 2008, Bilkent Symphony Hall, Ankara, Turkey. DDD
IBA/BMP 8.571253 [67:38] 


Experience Classicsonline

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 music.

This is, of course, nonsense for she is a musician first and foremost and her sex is immaterial to her playing. 

These 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. 

The 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. 

The 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.

These 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.

Bob Briggs

see also Review by John Sheppard


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