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İdil Biret’s Writings

On Rachmaninov

by Idil Biret

Preceding a new Millennium, the 20th century was a time of agitation, intolerance and extreme restlessness. In this environment the understanding and the purpose of art also changed. Music became, as with the other art forms, a field for very diversified experiments and it was seen necessary to produce a “new” sound. The roots of these experiments go back to the compositions of Wagner and Liszt whose visionary work in the 19th Century greatly inspired the modern era. This quest led ultimately to a break away from the tonal system. In this new environment there was an almost total absence of tolerance for the composers who were guided by their inspiration to work on the basis of the traditional tonal system. A composer like Rachmaninov who continued to use the more traditional post-romantic style was no longer understood or respected by many of his colleagues.

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The First Piano Concerto of Brahms and its origins in Schumann’s Introduction and Allegro op.134

A very special friendship had developed between Brahms and Clara and Robert Schumann from the September day in 1853 when the young man first visited them. He had made a deep impression on the couple as a composer and pianist. Schumann expressed his enthusiasm in an article titled “Neuen Bahnen” published in Die Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik in October. He also dedicated to Brahms the Introduction and Allegro for Piano and Orchestra op.134 which he had recently composed. Shortly afterwards Schumann showed the first signs of a violent derangement by his attempt to commit suicide. He was taken to a mental institution where he died two years later in 1856.

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On Wilhelm Kempff

Article by Idil Biret

I met Wilhelm Kempff for the first time when I was seven years old at a hotel in Paris. There was an upright piano in the lobby and I played there for him.

It was a new experience and a wonderful feeling for me to meet such a great artist who was also so modest. All the musicians I had known before were rather flamboyant and grandiose.

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Piano Teaching

Clavier Magazine / US (November 1999)
by Idil Biret

The best way to develop control over a piece is to start practicing very slowly, keeping fingers close to the keyboard. Be strict with time and tempo; play purposefully, entirely without pedal. Play all the way through this way, playing legato with the indicated or implied dynamics. When pedal is added later, performance will be easier. Listen analytically for problems and fix them. Later you can loosen up and add rubato.

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Madeleine de Valmalete

I met Madeleine de Valmalete for the first time in 1946 in Ankara, Turkey. I must have been five years old. I was then studying with Mithat Fenmen who had been a pupil of Nadia Boulanger and Alfred Cortot in Paris in the 1930s. Mr. Fenmen and Mme de Valmalete had been together at the Ecole Normale de Musique founded by Cortot.

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On Liszt’s Piano Transcriptions of the Beethoven Symphonies

A piano will never possess the same powerful sound as an orchestra notwithstanding its immense resources. I remember at the Paris Conservatoire we had to make piano reduction of orchestral scores at sight. The professor would bring to class a symphony we did not know and ask the student to play it on the piano. On these occasions we found that by playing very loud and abusing the pedal nearly all the time we thought were able to recreate to a certain extent the effects of a large symphony orchestra. This was of course an illusion: what sounded to us almost like an orchestra became a mixture of discordant sounds for the listener.

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Interpreting the Ligeti Etudes: Musical markings and time indications

György Ligeti has given very precise timing indications for all the Etudes together with the musical markings. For example, the timing indication for Etude no.12 is 2.56 minutes and Etude no.14a is 1.41 minutes. After consideration, I have decided to follow the musical markings rather than the strict timing indications of these works.

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