Idil Biret
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The documentary film on Idil Biret “The Portrait of a Child Prodigy” shown at film festivals

Idil Biret at 75 – Interview

Yasar Kemal’in Idil Biret ile buluşması – Nisan 2014

Hindemith Concertos with Yale Symphony on CD

Gottfried Wagner and Idil Biret April 2013

a) Gottfried Wagner and Idil Biret

b) Gottfried Wagner speaks on Idil Biret

Idil Biret in 2013 and moving to 2014

Idil Biret in 2013 and moving to 2014

2013 was another year of travels, concerts, jury work, music editing, master classes and the release of one of the largest number of new and old CDs ever in a year (20 in all) on Idil Biret’s own record label IBA and Naxos. It was also the year, when the major collaborative work with Yale University reached its conclusion with the release of the 2CD set of all Hindemith’s piano concertos on the Naxos label. With this release Idil Biret’s recordings reached the landmark of one hundred (in LPs and CDs). The other CDs released this year on IBA were a CD of Mozart sonatas (including the Turkish March), two Schumann sonatas (with Bunteblätter, Fantasiestücke, Carnaval and Waldszenen), a CD with the works of the Turkish composer Ertugrul O. Firat and the box set of 14 CDs “LP Originals” which contain the LPs in their original jackets which Biret made between 1956-1986 for Pretoria, Vega, Atlantic/Finnadar, Decca and HMV/EMI. This last box is also the fourth in the series of nine box sets which will be included in the IDIL BIRET 100 EDITION. The forthcoming releases in 2014 will be the complete Chopin and Rachmaninov box sets that were released internationally by Naxos in 1992 and 2000 as well the Schumann, Concerto and 20th Century Editions.*

The year started for Biret with another trip to New Haven to record the last of the five Hindemith works for piano and orchestra with the Yale Symphony. This was followed by a well deserved rest in Honolulu. Upon return she gave many concerts and recitals in Turkey including concerts in March in Ankara and Izmir conducted by Toshi Shimada who had led the Yale ensemble in the recordings of the Hindemith concertos. In April she participated in the jury of the 2nd Rachmaninov Competition at the Russian consulate in Istanbul; sadly the president of the 1st Competition Victor Merjanov, an old friend of Idil, had passed away. Later in April, together with Gottfried Wagner, the great grandson of Richard, they made a joint program at the Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul for the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth. Subsequently she gave a rare performance of Schönberg’s “Ode to Napoleon” in Izmir. In late May Biret traveled to Jersey for a recital and master classes and then to Budapest for a recital at the National Museum on June 4th. The rest of the month was spent on a boat sailing the Aegean sea for the annual “Blue Trip” with friends. In July Biret went to Lugano for a recital and also a chamber music concert performing cello sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms. This was followed by a trip to Gebele in Azerbeijan, in the South Caucasus mountains for the festival there. She performed Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jean Bernard Pommier. In September after the annual week of master classes in Ayvalik, Biret was in Worthing, England for a performance of Rachmaninov’s 1st Concerto with the orchestra conducted by John Gibbons. The concert was repeated with Maestro Gibbons again conducting, this time with the State Symphony Orchestra in Adana, Turkey. In the months that followed Biret performed the Schumann Piano Quintet with Ankara Chamber Soloists and the Borusan Quartet, gave a recital for the commemoration of the 90th Anniversary of the Lausanne Treaty in the presence of Özden Inönü (the daughter of President Inönü, who had signed the treaty in 1923) and toured eastern Turkey with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra performing the Grieg Concerto. In November she participated in a symposium in Amsterdam on her teacher Nadia Boulanger and in December in the jury of the Beethoven Competition in Bonn. In December, Biret played jazz for the first time when she joined her brother in law and his high school friends’ band “The Colours” for a performance of Dave Brubeck’s “Rondo a la Turca” in Istanbul.

The new year will start with a performance of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto at the newly built Zorlu Centre in Istanbul with a 2300 seat auditorium. Two recording sessions are planned; Scriabin’s Etudes and Vers la Flamme in Brussels in March and Schumann’s Piano Quintet and solo works in Heidelberg in May. The high point of 2014 will be a recital in New York which is being planned to take place in December at one of the famous concert halls of the city.


1) Beethoven Edition – The complete piano sonatas, concertos and symphony transcriptions
2) Liszt 200th Anniversary Edition – All the Liszt recordings of Biret since 1978
3) Brahms Edition – The complete works for solo piano and the two piano concertos
4) LP Originals Edition – The 14 LPs of Biret in their original jackets
5) Chopin Edition – The complete works for solo pianos and for piano and orchestra
6) Rachmaninov Edition – The complete works for solo piano and all the concertos
7) Schumann Edition – All the Schumann recordings of Biret
8 ) Concerto/Solo Edition – All the concertos and solo piano works not in the other editions
9) 20th Century Edition – All of Biret’s recordings of the 20th Century composers

Hindemith from Ankara to New Haven

From Ankara to New Haven

A musical journey remembered on the 50th anniversary of Paul Hindemith

Making of Hindemith’s complete piano concertos’ recordings by YSO and Idil Biret

In the fall of 2009 a Yale alumnus friend in Istanbul casually mentioned that the Yale Symphony Orchestra (YSO) would come to Turkey for concerts in the spring. When I then asked him whether they would like Idil Biret (my wife) to be the piano soloist at these concerts, how could I know that this would lead to the first ever recording of all the piano concertos of Paul Hindemith by Idil with an all student orchestra, the YSO to be released worldwide by a major label, Naxos? The proposal was enthusiastically accepted by the Yale Alumni group in Turkey as Idil Biret’s legendary name there draws crowds to concerts like a magnet and ensures their success. By coincidence Idil was due to give a recital at Yale at Sprague Hall in the Horowitz Piano Series in February 2010. So, we took the opportunity to arrange to meet with the conductor of YSO Toshi Shimada and the manager of the orchestra Brian Robinson to discuss the program of the concerts in Turkey.

It was then, while we were in New Haven for the recital, that the thought occurred to me that there was a common thread which linked Turkey to Yale in the person of the composer Paul Hindemith who taught at the Yale Music School between 1940-1953. While Hindemith’s time at New Haven is well known to scholars (1) and modern music enthusiasts, his visits to Ankara in the 1930s and the work he did there is almost unknown outside Turkey. His biography on the website of Schott (the publisher of Hindemith’s music) mentions this only in passing, saying, “Hindemith undertook a number of journeys to Turkey”. These “journeys”, however, left a great legacy and had a lasting influence in Turkey. For Hindemith who was invited there by the Turkish government, following the recommendation of Wilhelm Fürtwangler, prepared three reports totaling over 200 pages for the organization of classical music life in the country during the four trips he made there between 1935-1937.(2) His bust stands today at the entrance to the State Conservatory in Ankara which he helped establish.(3) Based on the implementation of many of his proposals, today in all the major cities of Turkey there are conservatories, orchestras, operas, ballet companies with seasonal programs and an active classical music life with a proliferation of festivals with visiting orchestras and soloists while many Turkish musicians tour the world giving concerts and making recordings. In this respect Turkey is like an oasis in the desert of Islam being the only country in the world whose population is almost totally Moslem where classical music flourishes to such a high degree. All this was the result of the vision of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey (4) together with dedicated companions and the work of Hindemith and those who implemented his plans there.


Consequently, in view of the above, it seemed appropriate that the YSO should include a work by Hindemith in the program of their tour in Turkey. I proposed this to Toshi and Brian, and also mentioned it to Linda Lorimer (VP Yale) at our meeting in her office. Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Weber, a popular work of Hindemith was then included in the program, together with Chopin’s F Minor Piano Concerto to be performed by Idil. The concerts in Turkey which took place in May 2010 were a great success. The YSO played to full houses in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir with wide media coverage of the events. The concert in Istanbul performed in the magical setting of the historic Byzantine church of St. Irene (5th Century AD) was the most memorable and will long be remembered by the Yale students who played there. Some important personalities attended the Istanbul concert including Yasar Kemal, Turkey’s greatest author.

Following the last concert in Izmir, after a late night party, on the beach of the Mediterranean resort hotel Toshi, Brian and the Dean of Arts Susan Cahan said good-bye to seniors in the orchestra who had played for the last time with YSO. It is there that idea came up, perhaps inevitably, to repeat the concert at Woolsey Hall in New Haven. It was then agreed that Idil should to play a work by Hindemith, The Four Temperaments for piano and string instruments and the 1st Piano Concerto of Franz Liszt. The date was set for 18 February 2012. Woolsey Hall for me was a sacred temple of music where I had attended many concerts during my years at Yale between 1964-1967 hearing the great American orchestras of Boston, Chicago and Cleveland and some of the greatest musicians of the time.(5) So, after many years, to hear Idil perform there would be something very special and a moving event for me. That is why I thought of having the concert filmed and having all the five piano concertos of Hindemith recorded with YSO in Woolsey Hall for international release on Idil’s own label IBA which is distributed worldwide by Naxos.(6) After discussions, YSO management agreed and organized the post concert recording of two of Hindemith’s concertos. On my side, I arranged a professional crew from New York to film the Woolsey Hall concert with four cameras led by a NY Film Academy trained young producer from Istanbul, Eytan Ipeker, who is making a documentary film on Idil’s life and now preparing a short documentary on Hindemith’s years in Ankara and New Haven (also using material made available from the Hindemith archive at Yale). Sometime after the concert, Brian Robinson wrote to me saying, “Yale’s Office of Public Affairs would like to broadcast Idil’s concert with the YSO in its entirety on Yale’s official You Tube page, which is wonderful news”. The video film was then put on you tube under the title “Turkey and Yale reunite in sound”.(7) Three more Hindemith concertos were recorded in December and January to finalise the series. The 2CD set is scheduled for international release (also digitally) by Naxos in October 2013, following the proposal of Klaus Heymann, the founder and president of the Naxos label.

This is a significant project for many reasons. Perhaps for the first time, professional recordings made by an orchestra composed of college students will be released internationally by a major label (Naxos with which Idil Biret has collaborated for nearly a quarter century). This will be the first recording of all of Hindemith’s five works for piano and orchestra(8) including the left hand concerto the score of which became available only recently.(9) The recordings will be released in 2013 which is the 50th anniversary of the death of Hindemith whose work left marks both in the US and Turkey. Hence, in a collaborative project the concertos are being performed by a Turkish pianist and an American orchestra. This will be the 100th album release of Idil Biret during a long career of recordings which started in Paris when she was only seventeen years old.(10). It is also, perhaps by providence, the 50th anniversary of Idil’s American debut which had taken place on the tragic day of 22 November 1963 (11).

A word of thanks is due here to Linda Lorimer and other senior administrators of Yale and YSO who have encouraged and given support to the project since the very beginning. All the Yale students in YSO, who have courageously undertaken the challenge of recording some of the most difficult works of the 20th century repertory with Idil Biret under the masterly baton of Toshi Shimada are also gratefully thanked. This project made it possible for me to do something for Yale, my alma mater, in return for all that Yale gave me during my years in New Haven when I was privileged to be there on a full scholarship as a member of the class of 1967.

Sefik Buyukyuksel      Yale  DC ‘67

New Haven

January 31st 2013

(1) See the article “Hindemith at Yale” by Prof. Allen Forte.
(2) In 1935 from 3 April to 16 May; in 1936 from 2 March to 3 June; in 1937 from 29 January to 20 February and from 25 Sept to 25 November. These reports, totaling around 200 pages, have been published for the first time in Germany in 2012 by Staccato Verlag in a facsimile edition.
(3) A photo of Hindemith in Ankara and that of his bust at the entrance of the conservatory are available.
(4) Atatürk said to Wilhelm Kempff, in an all night conversation in Ankara in 1927, that without parallel reforms in music the reforms being made in other areas in Turkey would remain incomplete. See the enclosed note on Atatürk’s discussion with Wilhelm Kempff on the importance of classical music in the context of the reform movement in the Turkish Republic.
(5) Including Rubinstein, Menuhin, Arrau, Gilels, Rostropovich, Schwarzkopf, Tebaldi and, during my senior year when I was an usher at the hall, the great Horowitz who suddenly decided to “rehearse” for his upcoming Carnegie Hall recital in New York. On that historic day not only did I show his wife Wanda (Toscanini) her seat, hear an unforgettable performance of Chopin’s B flat Minor Sonata, I became also the only person to be admitted to the artist’s room backstage after the concert where Horowitz briefly talked to me and both he and his wife signed one of his LPs for me.
(6) Naxos is now the largest distributor of classical music in the world.
(7) Hindemith performance can be viewed at:
(8) The five works of Hindemith for piano and orchestra are the following:
Concerto for the left hand, for Piano and Orchestra (1923)
Kammermusik No. 2 for Piano, String Quartet and Brass (1924)
Concert Music for Piano, Two Harps and Brass (1930)
The Four Temperaments for Piano and Strings (1940)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1945)
(9) Hindemith composed the left hand concerto in 1923 on a commission by the pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961) who had lost his right arm in WWI. Wittgenstein came from one of the wealthiest families in Austria and after the war commissioned concertos for the left hand from many composers including Britten, Strauss, Prokofiev and Ravel. He never performed Hindemith’s concerto in public and also did not allow its performance by another pianist or its publication during his lifetime. The original manuscript of the work is lost. However, a fair copy was preserved in the Wittgenstein estate which became accessible in 2002. Leon Fleisher premiered the concerto in 2004 and also made its first recording with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach in 2009. (Partly from notes by Giselher Schubert in the Eulenburg score of the concerto)
(10) See
(11) Idil Biret’s US debut concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Leinsdorf took place shortly after the announcement of the death of President Kennedy. The recording of this concert from the live radio broadcast can be listened to on the link

Idil Biret in 2012 and moving 2013

2012 was a year of travels, concerts, jury work, music editing, master classes and again the release of a number of CDs on Idil Biret’s own record label IBA, launched internationally in 2008. It was also the year of a major collaborative work with Yale University on Paul Hindemith who left his marks in both Turkey and USA.

The year started with a setback leading to an opportunity to make two beautiful recordings. In January, the last minute cancellation of a concert and planned recordings with two eminent Russian musicians at Bilkent left four free recording days available with an engineer from Germany ready to record anything Idil may want. She decided to record works of Schumann: The Fantasy Op.17, Sonata Op. 22, Tocatta Op. 7, Kreislariana Op.16, Blumenstück and Carnaval de Vienne. These were then released in the fall on two CDs on Idil Biret’s own label IBA bringing the total CDs released on the label to forty two.

In February, after a benefit concert for the Istanbul Archeological society, Idil Biret went to the US for a concert and recordings at Yale University. The project, which had materialized over discussions with the university over a period of two years, was the recording of all the five piano concertos of Paul Hindemith. Hindemith had made four visits to Turkey between 1935-1937 and prepared three reports with recommendations for the building of classical music life in Turkey which had been the base of reforms leading to the establishment of the state opera, ballet, and the conservatory in Ankara as well as strengthening the orchestra there. Subsequently Hindemith had gone to the US to teach music theory at Yale between 1940-1953. Consequently, in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death in 2013, it was decided to record all  five of his piano concertos in a collaborative effort between a Turkish pianist, Idil Biret, and a US university ensemble, the Yale Symphony.Orchestra. At the concert on 18 February in the magnificent 2600 seat Woolsey Hall of Yale University, Idil played Hindemith’s Four Temperaments for piano and string orchestra, followed by the first piano concerto of Franz Liszt ( is the link to the film of the whole concert). Subsequently, the same Hindemith work and the concerto for piano, two harps and  brass was recorded and a date was set in December to record the remaining concertos.

In March, after a Caribbean cruise trip she made to relax and regain energy, Idil Biret embarked on a five country concert tour in Latin America. Earlier she had given many concerts in Mexico and played in Cuba and Venezuela. But, this was the first time she would play in Colombia, Peru, Chili, Argentina and Brazil. The recital in Bogota took place in the famed concert hall of the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango where since 1966 almost all the great pianists have performed. The corridors of the back satge area were crowded with the photos of the pianists who have placed there. In Lima the concert with the your orchestra took place at the newly renovated Teatro Municipal Opera where Biret played Rachmaninov’s 2nd Concerto. The orchestra was conducted by Maestro Espartaco Lavalle who spoke fluent Turkish learnt during the three years he had spent in Turkey conducting the Izmir Opera Orchestra. Unfortunately, there was no time to visit the mountain top citadel of the Incas which Pablo Neruda immortalized in his poem Alturas de Macchu Picchu. Then, the trip to Chile with the recital in Santiago became memorable with a visit to Neruda’s ocean front home, Isla Negra, near Valparaíso. The great poet is  buried in the garden of the house overloking the ocean. The names of his poet friends who died were carved by Neruda on the wooden beams of the bar room with Nazim Hikmet and Garcia Lorca prominently among them. Idil signed the guest book of honour writing a few bars of the Adagietto of the 5th Symphony of Mahler, a composer whose work Neruda was known to have greatly admired. The trip to Argentina took Idil Biret over the Andes mountains, which Neruda had once crossed on horseback escaping from Chile and a subject of many of Neruda’s poems. The recital in Buones Aires took place in the hall of the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo and was attended by many people who had migrated to Argentina from Turkey. At the reception alter the concert Idil talked with many Armenians who knew her since childhood from her concerts in Istanbul and met the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Latin America who had come to the concert. The stay at the Turkish Embassy residence was emotionally charged since a previous ambasador, Pertev Subaşı, a distant uncle of both Idil and her husband, had passed away in that house many years ago. The trip to Sao Paolo started with a rain storm at the Buones Aires airport. It is customary that when rain storm descends on an airport, accompanied by thunder and lightning, the pilot waits for the storm to pass before taking off. Apparently, this was not indicated in the manual of the pilot flying the Aerolíneas Argentinas aircraft that day for he took off straight into the storm, entering a cumulus cloud, which shook the plane violently for nearly an hour. One could see lightning strikes illuminating the night sky on both sides of the aircraft. The landing in Sao Paolo brought a welcome relief. Sala Sao Paolo, the home of Sao Paolo Symphony Orchestra, with 1700 seats was converted from a railway station and is considered by many to be the best concert hall in South America. With parquet covering the floor and stage, surrounded by wood  panels reaching the ceiling and Greek style columns on both sides, the hall  has marvelous accoustics. The concert was atended by many people who had known Biret only from her many Naxos recordings. A group of admirers told Biret after the concert that they had made a two hour trip by air to come and hear her.

April was spent in Turkey, starting with a visit to the Fenerbahçe Sports Club and its new stadium on the Asian shore of Istanbul. Biret’s father in law was a famous player of the club’s football team in the late 1930s and she saw his photographs in the club’s museum together with those of the great players of the club from the past. She then went to Ankara to participate in the jury of the national piano competition at the state conservatory. This was followed by a recital with the violinist Suna Kan at the Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul where they played the sonatas of Beethoven and Brahms. Idil and Suna had gone to Paris as children for their music education benefiting from a Turkish law and while they had played together many times Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, this was their first duo recital.

In May Idil went to the United Kingdom to give recitals and master classes in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. She played first at the Menuhin School of Music near London and also gave a masterclass there. Idil had performed with Yehudi Menuhin in a memorable recital of Beethoven Sonatas at the first Istanbul Festival in 1973. The great violinist is buried in the garden of the school. She then traveled to Edinburgh for a masterclass at the Conservatory and then to Glasgow for a recital and masterclass at the Conservatory there. A customary side trip to the Scottish Highlands followed with a bus trip from Glasgow to Skye and a two day stay at a fishing village. On the return Biret gave a masterclass at the Trinity Music School at Greenwich near London. A memorial recital in Paris for a recently deceased friend followed. Many friends of Idil there, including Henry Louis de la Grange and Claude Samuel,  attended the concert.

At the beginning of June another benefit concert took place in Istanbul in cooperation with the Archeological society, this time for the Sagalassos excavations. The ancient city of Sagalassos, a two hour drive to the north from Antalya, beyond the Taurus mountains has been excavated for over twenty years by a Belgian team of archeologists. Suprisingly, it was for the first time that many in the Istanbul society of friends of archeology came to know about this great city of antiquity which had been destroyed by an earthquake. Idil had visited the site a few years ago and been charmed by its beauty. The three week customary yachting trip at the Aegean sea with friends followed, the days passing with much swimming, rest and work on the electronic piano on board the boat.

The only concert in July was in London with the Whitehall Orchestra at the St. John Smith Sq. hall where Idil played Beethoven‘s  5thConcerto. Then there was a lengthy period of holidays at the island home near Istanbul. In late August she completed recording the CD of works by the Turkish composer Ertuğrul Oğuz Fırat and then went to Ayvalik on the Aegean sea coast near Izmir to give her annual week of masterclasses at the music academy there. The interesting concert of the month was the recital in the ancient city of Bourges, one of the first capitals of France famed with its Cathedral. In October after opening the concert seasons of the Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul with the Ankara Soloists Quartet (Schumann and Brahms Quintets), the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in Ankara (Rachmaninov 2nd), the Antalya State Symphony (Brahms 2nd) she traveled to China for her second visit there after the memorable trip of 1981. She gave a recital at the Beijing Conservatory and also a masterclass there. Then, on the 1ast day of November, she took the bullet train traveling at 300km an hour to Shanghai to participate in the jury of the piano competition presided by Gary Graffman While ther she also played with the Shanghai Philharmonic (Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody), gave a recital and a masterclass at the Conservatory Hall. Upon returning to Turkey she traveled to Denizli and Muğla, cities in western Anatolia, for concerts with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra (Rachmaninov 2nd). A recital in Istanbul at the Enka Hall followed.

In December Idil was back in New Haven to record two of the remaining three piano concertos of Hindemith including the newly discovered concerto for the left hand (commissioned by Wittgenstein but never played by him) with the Yale Symphony Orchestra. The last of the concertos will be recorded in January and a 2CD set “The Complete Piano Concertos of Hindemith” will be released by Naxos in June 2013 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hindemith’s death. While at Yale another important project was launched together with the Music School – the English translation of Hindemith’s reports on Turkish music reforms for an intended publication in the US. In 2013 through the afforts of Biret and husband the Hindemith reports will also be published in Germany by Staccato Verlag (in the original manuscript) and in Turkey by Cenap And Foundation in a new Turkish translation. The last concerts of the year took place in the tumultuous environment of Egypt with recitals in Cairo in Manasterly Palace and the historic Opera House in Alexandria. A visit to the home of the poet Cavafy was the memorable event of her stay in Alexandria.

IBA continued the release of Idil Biret’s recordings which will reach the landmark of one hundred (in LP and CD) with the completion of the five Hindemith concertos. The copyrights of all of those recorded in the past having been obtained, including from DECCA, EMI, ATLANTIC/FINNADAR and NAXOS labels, these are now being released in nine boxes which will all be available in one large set titled IDIL BIRET 100 EDITION. Following the  first two boxes, the Beethoven and Liszt Editions released in 2011, the third box in the series, the Brahms Edition with the complete solo piano works and the two concertos was released in December (originally issued by Naxos in 1998). These will be followed by the complete Chopin and Rachmaninov box sets that were released internationally by Naxos in 1992 and 2000. Four other sets will complete the series of nine boxes which are the following:

1) Beethoven Edition – The complete piano sonatas, concertos and symphony transcriptions

2) Liszt 200th Anniversary Edition – All  the Liszt recordings of Biret since 1978

3) Brahms Edition – The complete works for solo piano and the two piano concertos

4) Chopin Edition – The complete works for solo pianos and for piano and orchestra

5) Rachmaninov Edition – The complete works for solo piano and all the concertos

6) Solo & Concerto Edition – All the solo piano works and concertos not in the other editions

7) 20th Century Edition – All of Biret’s recordings of the 20th Century composers

8 ) LP Originals Edition – The 14 LPs of Biret in their original jackets

In 2012 the International Music Company (IMC) of New York published the seventh piano score in the ongoing new series of Chopin’s Complete Works edited by Idil Biret. The scores published so far are the following: Tarantelle Op.43, Bolero Op.19, Barcarolle Op.60, Rondos Op.1 and 5, Impromptus Op.51 and 66, Sonata No.1, Three New Etudes. Allegro de Concert is the next piece being edited by Idil which will be published by IMC during the coming year. (See )

Bill Newman interviews Idil Biret

AKOB Magazine supplement / May 2012

Idil Biret in 2010 and moving to 2011

Idil Biret Secretariat Idil Biret – Brussels


Idil Biret in 2010 and moving to 2011

2010 was another a year of travels, concerts, jury work, music editing, master classes and the release of a large number of CDs, now totaling thirty, on Idil Biret’s own record label IBA which was launched internationally in 2008.

The year started with the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Concert Fantasy in January with the Bilkent Orchestra conducted by José Serebrier. Then, Idil traveled to the USA for a recital and master-class at Yale University. In February she went to Poland for concerts with the Cracow Philharmonic conducted by Kazimierz Kord (Chopin 1st Concerto), and for recitals in Lublin and other cities as part of the celebrations there for the 200th Chopin anniversary. In March she was in London for a recital  and a  performance of Chopin’s 2nd Concerto at St. John Smith’s Square. In April Idil was back in Potsdam for a second recital in two years, this time at the famed Nikolaisaal where her mentor Wilhelm Kempff had played in the past. Kempff’s Children Roland and Irene, who have a house there, were in the audience. In May and early June she gave concerts with the Yale Symphony Orchestra during their tour in Turkey performing Chopin’s 2nd Concerto. The orchestra’s program included Hindemith’s Metamorphosis in remembrance of the work he did in Turkey and as a professor at Yale. A mid-summer concert took Idil to Bodrum (old Halicarnassus) where she played Chopin’s 2nd Concerto and the Schumann Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the opening night of the D-Marin Festival to a capacity crowd of nearly 3500 people. The fall season opened in September with jury work at the Scottish Piano Competition and a recital in Glasgow followed by a recital in France, at the piano festival in Bordeaux. In October she gave a recital in Berlin at the Philharmonie (Kammersaal) and participated in the jury of a piano competition there. This was Idil Biret’s first return to Berlin after her memorable concert with the Berlin Radio Orchestra at the Konzerthaus in 1985 (at the time East-Berlin in DDR).  She then traveled to England for recitals for the Chopin Society in London and at the Canterbury Festival. In December Idil was at the Paris Conservatoire for master classes and also a lecture-recital on Liszt with Prof. Remy Stricker

As always there were many concerts and recitals in Turkey, in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Eskisehir, Adana, Bursa, Eregli, Mersin, Assos (at the antique theatre), Kars, Erzurum and Rize. The annual tour with the Presidential Orchestra took her for the first time to the eastern citis of Kars and Rize for concerts. Among the year’s memorable concerts in Turkey were the 80th anniversary celebration recital (with Suna Kan) for Özden Inönü, the daughter of the late Turkish President Ismet Inönü, the recital in memory of the great Turkish educator Türkan Saylan, the two concerts at the Bilkent and at the new 1700 seat concert hall in Bursa (Mozart Concerto K.491)  with Maestro Franceso Belli (Idil had played with him in Cuba in 2009) and the recital with Alexander Rudin at Süreyya Opera House in Istanbul where they played the Brahms Sonatas for cello and piano. In May Idil participated at a Chopin Symposium at the Hacettepe University and in November she gave a speech at a conference at the Bilkent University in Ankara titled “Turkish music reforms in the 19th and 20th Centuries”.

It came as a pleasant surprise to learn that early in the Chopin 200th anniversary year Idil’s 15 CD complete Chopin edition, which had won a Grand Prix du Disque in Warsaw in 1995, was published, enclosed in a set of 15 books on the life of Chopin, by the Rzeczpopolitika  newspaper in Poland.* The Chopin books were introduced with the following words.

Rzeczpopolitika Chopin Edition   2010 / Unhappy love affairs, homesickness, musical challenges, complicated friendships …What was the real Fryderyk Chopin like? How his great talent was born, what inspired him? Which events were linked to his most moving compositions? All these questions, and more are answered in our collector’s series published in the Chopin Year. Collect all 15 lavishly illustrated albums together with 30 CD’s which contain the complete works by our genius composer in  the sensational interpretation by Idil Biret. These recordings were distinguished at the International Record Competition with a Grand Prix du Disque Frederic Chopin (Warsaw 1995). In recognition of the artistry of Idil Biret, the president of Poland Lech Kacznsky decorated her (in 2007) with the Cross of the Order of Merit (Krzyzem Kawalerskim Ordera Zaslugi) of the Republic of Poland for her part in promoting Polish culture with her recordings and concert performances of Chopin’ music.

Idil Biret’s recordings were also enclosed also in a number of books on the life of Chopin published in the US and UK. The following article appeared in the Guardian newspaper in the UK on 6 February, reviewing one of these books:

The life and Works of Chopin “This is the first of what is bound to be a stream of biographies celebrating the bicentenary of the composers birth. But, none, I bet will include as much if any of the music. At least half this audio is devoted to the works played with great passion and even greater panache by the Turkish virtuoso Idil Biret.”

(5 hours – Naxos Audiobooks) Guardian / 6 February 2010

Another pleasant surprise was when, on 24 October as she was giving a recital in London in October, a Chopin Waltz recording of Idil was played on the BBC Desert Island Discs program as the first choice of the UK vice prime minister Nick Clegg.** In March the translation of André Gide’s book “Notes on Chopin” was published in Turkey with a foreword by Idil together with a CD of her recordings of works referred to by Gide in the book. A most important event of the year was the release on the IBA label’s ARCHIVE EDITION  eight of the nine LPs Idil Biret recorded in New York in the 1970s for the Finnadar label of Atlantic/Warner Records produced by Ilhan Mimaroglu. Long deleted from catalogues and only available to collectors through e-bay auctions, these recordings which include many 20th Century compositions by Ravel, Stravinsky, Boulez, Boucourechliev, Miaskovsky, Scriabin, Prokofiev and Mimaroglu, were released on CD and digitally on major websites, including Naxos Music Library, ClassicsOnline, iTunes, eMusic and  Amazon (for details see The New Yorker magazine had written a laudatory article on Idil Biret’s concert performance of the Boulez 2nd Sonata in New York  in 1982. This time, with the release of the LP on CD on the IBA label, another article appeared in the June issue of The New Yorker:

The notion that any substantial German influence could affect France’s triumphant achievements in art, fashion, and cuisine would be, well , incroyable. But, music, the relatively weaker sibling has always been more susceptible to developments across the Rhine…In our own time Pierre Boulez (who has lived in Germany) has given the twelve tone techniques of Webern and Schönberg a new level of complexity, as well as exacting, percussive intensity that is a world away from the sentimentality of old Vienna…Idil Biret, a renowned Turkish pianist who was a protégée of Nadia Boulanger and Alfred Cortot, has re-released her acclaimed recording of the iconic Piano Sonata No. 2 (IBA distributed by Naxos), alongside music by Webern and Berg; her crystalline textures and undulating rhythms insure that the spirit of Ravel is never too far away.

The New Yorker /Russell Platt / 21 June 2010

In the ARCHIVE EDITION, the first LP Idil Biret made in Paris in 1959 for the Pretoria label was also released (Schumann Fantasiestücke Op.12 and Brahms Three Intermezzi Op.117). At the time this was the first LP recording released internationally by a Turkish pianist.

Idil Biret’s nineteen volume Beethoven Edition consisting of the thirty two sonatas, five concertos, the choral fantasy and the piano transcriptions of the nine symphonies (by Franz Liszt) has now been completed with the dispatch of the last CD master to the factory for manufacture in December. They were recorded in fifty five days during a long period which spread over of twenty three years. Some outstanding reviews of the Beethoven recordings have appeared as they were released. Two noteworthy examples are below:

Turkish pianist Idil Biret’s series of Beethoven Sonatas is emerging as a major statement in the field, entirely different in emphasis from that of Andras Schiff and the other cycles that have appeared in the recent years. She favors slow tempos and a light touch, which brings out small details, all subsumed within a convincing and well thought-out overall architecture…a summary of insights gained over a lifetime by a veteran Beethoven interpreter. Her playing is precise without being intellectual…Biret’s quiet readings lie at an opposite extreme from the punchy essays of an Andras Schiff…Biret’s set is essential listening for the perfect Beethovenian.

James Mannheim  / All Music Guide  2010

When the massive Beethoven / Biret series is issued in the full, it will contain 19 CDs housing the complete sonatas, piano concertos and the symphonies (in Liszt’s transcriptions). It will be a worthwhile monument to keyboard afficianados and Beethoven mavens, for Biret (b. 1941) is one of the finest interpreters of the composer’s works of her generation…All in all these four discs (the first four of the series) augur an excellent introduction to what will probably be regarded as one of the more important Beethoven keyboard projects of the early 21st century. Recommended.

Robert Cummings  / Classical Net   2009

The complete Beethoven Edition, a box set of  19 CDs together with two DVDs will be released by IBA in October 2011. The DVDs will contain a documentary on the story of the recording of the Beethoven Edition being made by the young film producer Eytan Ipeker as well as the recording of the Concertos 2,3,4,5 from concerts Biret gave in 2008 with Antoni Wit conducting. ***

In 2010 the American International Music Company (IMC) of New York published the fifth piano score in the ongoing new series of Chopin’s Complete Works edited by Idil Biret. The scores published so far are the following: Tarantelle Op.43, Bolero Op.19, Barcarolle Op.60, Rondos Op.1 and 5, Impromptus Op.51 and 66. The Sonata No.1 is the next piece being edited by Idil which will be published by IMC during the coming year. (See )

A touching event of the year was David Helfgott’s visit to Idil at her home in Istanbul while he was there for a concert. David had heard Idil at a concert  in Perth during her Australian tour in 1984 and always wanted to meet her. Shortly after arriving at Idil’s home, David sat at the piano and started playing Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto. Idil then played the orchestral part from memory at the second piano and together they performed the whole concerto. In a world of totally commercialized music, it was a rare moment of pure music making by two great pianists which brought tears to the eyes of the few who were present there that day.

During a press conference after a speech at the Bosphorus University in Istanbul, Alfred Brendel, a friend of Idil for many years, said the following:

“Idil Biret has the energy and intellect also to perform Boulez and Ligeti. She is thus holding the pulse of our time which is very important. I have a great admiration for Idil. I wonder how it is possible that a diminutive woman with such small hands can have the energy to be the master of such a monumental repertory and possess the necessary  intellectual capacity for it.”

Another interesting point in the year was a letter Idil sent to Harper’s magazine, after noting that her rendition of the Andante from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony could be listened to at the magazine’s website in a story about Romain Rolland who had played this piece to Mahatma Gandhi in India:

“In a letter published by The Nation in 1931, Romain Rolland describes his meeting with Mahatma Gandhi:

On the last evening, after the prayers, Gandhi asked me to play him a little of Beethoven. (He does not know Beethoven, but he knows that Beethoven has been the intermediary between Mira [Slade] and me, and consequently between Mira and himself, and that, in the final count, it is to Beethoven that the gratitude of us all must go.) I played him the Andante of the Fifth Symphony.

Listen to a performance of the andante movement from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C Minor, op. 67 (1808), in the transcription of Franz Liszt, which Rolland used. Idil Biret performs:”

(See Idil Biret’s letter at )

This year a most touching statement on Idil’s concerts and recordings was made on the Amazon site by an anonymous writer:

“To tell the truth, I’ m getting a minor case of musical heebie-jeebies when it comes to this artist. Is there any music which Idil Biret cannot master at a high musical level? Or for which she fails to make a vigorous, fair case? Once the entrancing spell of a particular reading on a specific disc fades slowly away, in retrospect I am gripped by a surprise uncanny sense that maybe she is really a super-human woman from another planet – far, far, far, far beyond our galaxy”.

2011 will be a year of some very unusual recording projects starting in January with the Liszt transcription of Berlioz’s Harold en Italie with the eminent violist Rusen Günes following concert performances of this work in Istanbul and Ankara. It will be released as a double CD in the IBA ARCHIVE EDITION together with the Liszt transcription of the Symphonie Fantastique, an LP Idil made for Finnadar in 1979. She will then travel to Cairo for a recital in February. In March, shortly before her recital in Leipzig, Idil will spend a week in Heidelberg recording all three versions of Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes composed in 1826, 1837 and 1851 which will be released later in the year on three CDs. After recitals at the Istanbul and Schleswig Holstein Festivals in June and July, plans are underway for Idil to travel to Havana for a concert with the Cuban National orchestra and also to record two Mozart Concertos K.453 and K.491 with Maestro Francesco Belli. In November, after her recital at the Philharmonie in Berlin, a recording of Poulenc and Bartok concertos for two pianos is being planned with Idil and Viktoria Postnikova with the Bilkent Orchestra to be conducted by Maestro Gennadi Rozhdestvensky. Two months later Idil will travel to New Haven to perform Hindemith’s works with Yale Symphony Orchestra at the majestic 3000 seat Woolsey Hall. She will then record with YSO the two Hindemith works, The Four Temperaments and Concerto for Piano, Two Harps and Brass Instruments.

An interesting event of the year will be the 200th anniversary Liszt Symposium at the Hacettepe University in Ankara between 19-22 October where Idil will give the closing concert (Liszt 2nd Concerto) and also participate in two presentations, one with Prof. Rémy Stricker (Liszt and piano transcriptions) and the other with Dr. Gottfried Wagner (Liszt and Wagner).


* Rzeczpopolitika in Poland  (15 Chopin books with Idil’s CD)

** Nick Clegg on BBC Desert Island Dics (Chopin Waltz of Biret)

*** Complete Idil Biret Archive on Naxos Library

Idil Biret in 2009 and moving to 2010

2009 was a year of travels, concerts and release of a record number of CDs (19 altogether) on Idil Biret’s own record label IBA (Idil Biret Archive) which was launched internationally in December 2008.

The year started with a concert in Potsdam (Germany) in January in memory of Wilhelm Kempff who had lived there before the second world war. His children Irene and Roland were present at the concert. Then Idil started her series of concerts in Turkey which took her to Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana, Gaziantep, Antalya, Eskisehir, Karabük as well as to universities in Mersin, Burdur, Pamukkale, Edirne, Konya, Nigde, Edirne,  Erzurum and the Middle East Technical University in Ankara throughout the year.


Reactionary protest against Idil Biret’s concert at the Topkapi Palace

Vakit Newspaper Incites Reactionary Protest against Concert

A concert by world-famous pianist Biret in Topkapı Palace was targeted by protesters who were prevented by police from storming the building.

The Vakit newspaper published an article entitled “Alcohol will flow like water in the sacred place” about a concert by world-famous pianist İdil Biret in Topkapı Palace.


A Turkish Pianist on the Concert Stages of the World, Xardel

book_front_kThe book “Une Pianiste Turque En France: Idil Biret” by Dominique Xardel was translated into English and is being released this month as a special edition.


Idil Biret’s Athens Recital (Bettina Mara)

Bach/Kempff, Gluck/Kempff, Chopin, Kreisler/Rachmaninov, Wagner/Liszt : Idil Biret piano, Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall 23.5.2009

Bettina Mara



Idil Biret in 2008 and moving to 2009

2008 was exceptional as during this year Idil Biret’s own record label The Idil Biret Archive was launched internationally. In December IBA joined the Naxos family of labels being distributed worldwide on CD as well as digitally on major websites, including Naxos Music Library, ClassicsOnline, iTunes, eMusic and Amazon. The IBA label made its debut with four volumes from the 19 volume Beethoven Edition which includes the 32 Piano Sonatas, 5 Piano Concertos, the Choral Fantasy and Liszt’s transcriptions of the 9 Symphonies. The Sonatas and the Piano Concertos are new recordings. The Liszt transcriptions of the Symphonies were originally issued by EMI/Electrola in 1986. The newly recorded concertos of Tchaikovsky, Liszt, Grieg and Schumann as well as the legendary and long unavailable recordings Biret made for Ahmet Ertegün’s Atlantic/Finnadar label with Ilhan Mimaroglu as the producer in New York in the 1970s will be released in the coming months and years.


Idil Biret Turkey concert schedule, 2008 – 2009

In 2008 – 2009 concerts season, pianist İdil Biret will mostly perform with Turkish orchestras in İstanbul, Ankara, Eskişehir, Adana, Antalya and Muğla.

November 2008
12, 13, 14 November 2008, Ankara, Presidential Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven Choral Fantasy, Rachmaninov Paganini Variations.


Idil Biret in 2007 and moving to 2008

yasamoyku1.jpg2007 was the first in over twenty years that a new recording of Idil Biret was not released on CD. But, the backlog of recorded works waiting for release was impressive. These were the three Tchaikovsky Concertos, the two Liszt Concertos and the Totentanz, the Concertos of Grieg and Schumann and the 32 Beethoven Sonatas now completed and being edited. During the year it was decided to issue all these and future recordings of Idil on her own label Idil Biret Archives (IBA) and distribute them both digitally for downloading and as CDs on the internet and shops worldwide using the services of a major distributor. More information on this work will be available on Idil’s website soon.


Book on İdil Biret was published in Germany

The book named “Une Pianiste Turque En France: Idil Biret”, which is based on an interview of Dominique Xardel with Idil Biret, was published by Buchet-Chastel, a prestigious publishing house in France, at the end of the previous year. This book was translated into Turkish by Üner Birkan under the name “Dünya Sahnelerinde bir Türk Piyanisti: Idil Biret” and published by Can Yayınları, a leader Turkish publishing house in Turkey, in June.


Idil Biret was honored by the President of Poland with a “Eminent Service Medal”

Idil Biret was honored by the President of Poland Lech Kaczynsky with the “Order Zaslugi Rzecy Postpolitej Polskiej / Kryzem Kawalerskim” medal of the country with a ceremony organized at the Ambassadorship of Poland in Ankara on 23rd January 2007 due to her contributions to the Polish culture, performance and recording of the works of Polish Chopin around the world. President of Poland made a formal call to Turkey for this visit.


Two millionth CD Award to Biret

Doğan Hızlan, 28 December 2004

A Platinum CD was presented to Idil Biret, the world-famous Turkish pianist, as the sales of her CDs reached to two million copies.


Idil Biret in 2006 and moving to 2007

Secretariat Idil Biret / Brussels

2006 was a year rich in activities for Idil Biret, particularly in their variety; including the publication of a book, starting work on a new edition of the Chopin scores, new recordings, and a new CD release and of course concerts in many parts of the world.


Idil Biret in 2005 and moving to 2006

Secretariat Idil Biret / Brussels

“The Turkish pianist Idil Biret was one of the greatest pianistic prodigies of the 20th Century. Her recital at the Boston Conservatory last night demonstrated that she is no less prodigious today. She played a long and demanding program with the power, concentration, and pouncing instincts of a crouching tiger…This is the kind of playing that makes reservations irrelevant; there is no one like her, which is what defines a unique artist”.


Idil Biret in 2004 and moving to 2005

Secretariat Idil Biret / Brussels

This was a year of travels for Idil Biret, engagements taking her to places as far as Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, and Allentown in Pennsylvania USA. January started with the now traditional annual recital in Rome at the Theatre Ghione master pianists series.


Idil Biret in 2003 and moving to 2004

Secretariat Idil Biret / Brussels

2003 was another active year for Idil Biret. Naxos released her recordings of the Ligeti “Etudes” in March and the Stravinsky “Firebird” ballet transcription in July to much critical acclaim. The Gramophone magazine in England selected the “Firebird” as an editor’s choice in November saying “Idil Biret takes on this fiendish work with abandon and great deal of panache”.


Idil Biret in 2002 and moving to 2003

Secretariat Idil Biret / Brussels

2002 has been another active year for Idil Biret. In England she recorded Stravinsky’s piano transcription of the complete Firebird ballet music which will be released worldwide by Naxos in the summer of 2003. Another important release in 2003 February will be the Etudes of György Ligeti (Book I & II) which Biret recorded last year.