Idil Biret was born in Ankara. She started to play the piano at the age of three and later studied at the Paris Conservatoire under the guidance of Nadia Boulanger, graduating at the age of fifteen with three first prizes. She was a pupil of Alfred Cortot and a lifelong disciple of Wilhelm Kempff with whom she gave a concert at the Theatre Champs-Elysees in Paris in 1953 at the age of eleven, performing Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos.
With Wilhelm Kempff and Joseph Keilberth after the Paris concert (1953)
She embarked on her career as a soloist at the age of seventeen appearing with major orchestras in the principal music centres of the world like, Boston Symphony, Leningrad Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestre National de France, London Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic in collaboration with conductors of greatest distinction such as Erich Leinsdorf, Pierre Monteux, Hermann Scherchen, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Kazimierz Kord, Antoni Wit. Her first major concert was in Brussels in 1959 with Orchestre National de Belgique, which was attended by Queen Elisabeth of Belgium who had met her as a child in Paris at Nadia Boulanger’s home.
With Queen Elisabeth of Belgium after the concert (1959)
To many major festival appearances may be added membership of juries for international competitions including the Van Cliburn 1985), Reine Elisabeth competition in Belgium (1978), and Busoni competitions. She has received the Lili Boulanger memorial Award in Boston, the Harriet Cohen / Dinu Lipatti Gold Medal in London, the Polish Cavalry Cross of the Order of Merit, the Adelaide Ristori Prize in Italy, the French Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite and the State Artist distinction in Turkey.
With King Baudoin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium and Jury members (1978)
Her more than one hundred records since the 1960s include the first recordings of Liszt’s transcriptions of the nine symphonies of Beethoven for EMI which she recorded at the Church of Chamon Gistoux in Belgium in 1986,
EMI 6LP box / The Nine Beethoven Symphonies
Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique for Atlantic/Finnadar and for Naxos the complete piano works of Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninov, the three Sonatas of Boulez, the Etudes of Ligeti and the Firebird piano transcription by Stravinsky, with a Marco Polo disc of the piano compositions and transcriptions of her mentor Wilhelm Kempff. Her Boulez recording the Golden Diapason of the year award in France in 1995 and the complete Chopin recordings have received a Grand Prix du Disque Frédéric Chopin award in Poland the same year.
Naxos 15CD box / Complete works of Chopin
In 2007 the President Lech Kaczsnky decorated Biret with the highest order of Poland (Krzyzem Kawalerskim Ordera Zaslugi) for her contribution to Polish culture through her recordings and performances of Chopin’s music.
President Lech Kaczynsky of Poland decorating Idil Biret (2007)
The IBA label is now issuing her old and new recordings which are being produced and distributed worldwide by Naxos on CD and digitally. More than 50 CDs have so far been released which include Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas, 5 Concertos, 9 Symphony transcriptions by Liszt (in a box set of 19 CDs), the many LPs she made for Decca, Vega, EMI and Atlantic records in France, Germany and USA as well as recently recorded concertos of Grieg, Liszt, Ravel, Saint-Säens, Schumann and Tchaikovsky.
The first three CDs on IBA released by Naxos (2008)
Her new recording of all the 5 piano concertos of Hindemith with the Yale Symphony Orchestra was released worldwide by Naxos in October 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his passing away. All the 100 plus recordings Idil Biret made since 1959 will be released in a single set containing ten boxes (Idil Biret 100 Edition) towards the end of 2016 .