Idil Biret
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Interviews

Bill Newman interviews Idil Biret, AKOB Magazine supplement / May 2012

Idil Biret

All Involving-All Embracing!

I first heard her in live recital during a Winter Season from the 1990s. While reviewing her Naxos recordings of Chopin, Brahms and Rachmaninov in CD Review magazine, I set up an interview which proved very successful and she informed me that she was about to perform at Brighton College. So I went along. From Bach, arranged Wilhelm Kempfff through to Chopin’s Sonata in B minor I was thrilled beyond measure by the controlled variety of touch, the consistent, yet flexible singing tone and sustained rhythmic flexibility. Her phrasing and vibrato was so subtle, that continuity of line was never in question. The following year; a return date was made where I accompanied her to a BBC Overseas recording in Golder lv Green, London. She played Rachmaninovis Moments Musicaux with a sense of drama and such persuasion that the programme producer-engineer was literally frightened out of his life!

Then came a lull, although I was well aware that her appearances for Londonis Chopin Society had made her a Star overnight. My own literary involvements, however had diversyied to an extent that the VWgmore Hall became something ofa second home, with instrumental recitals eventually giving way to an International String Quartet scene. Somehow the appeal of four players arguing the toss and competing for supremacy also made for more exciting copy following the event, and I likewise enjoyed discussing the profusion of conflicting ideas that went into their preparation for the ideal interpretation.

Solo instrumental recitals still have their fascination for me, but many of the great names have since departed this earth. As a result of endless competitions, a new generation now commands recital platforms everywhere. Aided and abetted by critical factions, suitable plaudits enhance a stream of talent across the globe, but I continue to make up my own mind about what I hear – be they Russian, Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian, German, British… I also find that fraternising with select audience members can also provide a correct level of opinion.

Meanwhile, I learnt about Idil is movements from her husband Sejik Yuksel. Meetings at the Lansdowne Club, Berkeley Square led to pleasant meals at one of the select restaurants in the Green Park area. We would talk and argue amicably about European pianists and the recording scene, Sefik announcing that he had arranged a contract with Klaus Heymann of Naxos for the release of Idil is new recordings of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Grieg, and a reissue of older recordings from other labels, in addition. The entire series appear under the label Idil Biret Archive, (IBA, for short). 40, or so CDs are steadily mounting each month, and I am endeavouring to give precedence to their playback each day of the week!

To match Idil is’ live performance commitments, Sefik decided to retire from his Executive job with the Association of European Airlines in Belgium. He, in every sense, now looks after her entirely. On several occasions I hear her say to friends and business associates: ‘Please ask Sefik; he know’s everything that goes on!’


Idil was invited by Michael Nebe, the Whitehall Orchestras Music Director to appear with them at Londonis St. .John is Smith Square. On separate occasions, Brahms Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major and later Chopin’s Andante Spiannato & Grande Polonaise with Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor charmed and delighted appreciative audiences. I was impressed when Idil commenced cueing young players with her head and shoulders, and this included a great deal of eye contact, her face reflecting consistent pleasure during Brahmsiv long, 48 minute work. From the podium, Michael was also doing his fair share, but it was just as if the whole ensemble were transported aloft by the whole experience. The Chopin, one year on, was just like one linked symphonic poem.

Idil’s Chopin again occupied centre stage at Henrietta Barnet School in Hampstead Garden Suburb in 2009. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there, but heard fine reports.

In the Footsteps of Chopin

The Chopin Society UK, St. Paul is Church, Covent Garden,Sunday, October 24th 2010 at 3 .30pm.

Idil Biret plays an all-Chopin programme.Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op.6I, 4 Ballades: G minon Op. 23, Fmajon Op.38,

A flat major; Op.47, F minon Op.52, I 2 Etudes, Op. 25.

Musicologists and promoters talk about Stagecraft. Part and parcel of the artistic personality, it undoubtedly contributes to the success of the entertainment. In the lovely Church of St. Paul is situated jn Bedford Street, London, WC2 of The Strand, it certainly added both simplicity and nobility to this very special event. Why this should remind me of Nadia Boulangen Idil lv first great mentor; is not too dyjicult. I remember to this day the wonderful performance that lady of genius directed of F aureis Requiem at the Royal Festival Hall, which later appeared on one of two recordings at dyferent venues she left to posterity. A deeply religious woman, Nadia had lost her beloved younger sister Lili, a composer of destined greatness, cut off in her prime. The upright and angelic Boulanger stance, the firm yet supple body movements governing arm and hand directions, became a legend in her time. Her facial contours in side profile, with head raised in an expression of profound belief- like-as I remember Serge Koussevitzky in 1948 conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra – has some similarity to Idil Biret seated on the piano stool, her countenance one of deep thought and respect, a haMsmile drawing forth the suggested inspirational level of Chopinis music at dyferent episodes in maturity. Again, and this is rather uncanny, those who know and have seen the picture of Cesar Franck seated at the Organ of the Church at Cavaille Coll, will compare his facial concentration with hers.

Idil beckoning to her audience is something else. Hands at her sides, fairly loose and relaxed, she carefully clasped them togethen and we awaited her bow before walking slowly and proudly towards the church entrance, to return, head upright, smiling broadly before remounting the platform – most likely to play an encore. Readers who know Rider Haggard is ‘She ’, Wise Goddess of the Infinite, would watch and listen – but note also her peddling, the sandled foot working away vigorously at the right sustaining pedal, leaving the left used with discretion for positional changes.

I have always regarded Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantasie, No.7 in A flat, Op.61 as his finest solo piano work. It can so easily elude the performer is integrity and control by being played too fast, too loud, whereby rhythmic accuracy and control suffers, accordingly. Like all Chopin, tempo and expression markings plot the progress as we move smoothly from one episode to the next. This was a memorable performance of the work, on a par with the one from Richard Goodeis equally superb Wigmore Hall recital during last season. Note the left hand octave pizzicatos, set in relief during the first main key change, a tempo giusto, and the glorious floating right hand- soavemente..sostenuto, that follows on. At no instances were dynamics or structural links overdone, the ‘autobiographical story link’remaining intact. Following the Poco piu lento, the thread moves in other directions through other key sequences into a long peroration of major rejoicings. I love the marking pompasamente that sets it all moving, finally towards the magical, serene ending and fortissimo chord on the octave.

The Four Ballades, taken as a whole, illustrated our pianists wonderful insights into controlled rubato during music of mysterious invention, uncontrollable turbulence, sweet passions and introspective, unpredictable buildup and resolves. I believe the final number – the F minon Op.52 flummoxed even Robert Schumann, who probably recognized it as ‘music for the future ’, although today it enjoys the utmost admiration for the versatility and originality of its planned layout and complexity of notation and phraseology. If the first three can be said to possess more recognizable forms and content, this is easily knocked on the head by the sheer profundity of detail that has to comply to Chopin is directions at every given moment.

In the G minor Opus 23, a normal spate of melodic writing is soon treated to florid invention, Suddenly it becomes louder and more intense, despite brief episodes of lighter relief then goes into orbit with a final flourish. The F majon Opus 38: depicts the calm before the storm. VWth Presto con fuoco at the helm attempting to bring back its opening subject, it soon succumbs to two piu mossos and a jtnal Agitato, before petering out in the final eight bars. I love Biretis sense of panache, but equally adore her romantic treatment of the A flat major Ballade Opus 4 7,where lilting C major quavers transport us into the mezza voce subject. Even the central fortissimo octaves contain brilliance instead of conflict, while semiquaver groupings represent a continuous succession of great beauty. Personally, the final three pages – where the lilt is transformed into four ‘held note is forzandi through to the close – represents some of the composer is’ most compact and exciting pages of writing. Together with the aforementioned Opus 52, and a few Cortotesque wrong notes in the left hand, this was quite superb in every way.

A complete transformation led to the I 2 Etudes, Opus 25, A Mme la Contesse d ‘Agoult, in Part 2. They were all played with a quality of touch that belongs to the true connoisseur among great artists whom todays audiences hear so rarely in the concert halls or recital rooms of the world is towns and cities. Not only was the sound of the concert grand so right in every respect, but the chosen tonal treatment of the I2 numbers suited each other to perfection. The glorious rippling motions of No.1 , Allegro sostenuto alternating piano with pianissimo, sets the scene, while in the Presto No.2, quaver groupings, sempre legatissimo, formed tapestries of colours. The following Allegro, No.3 was a jocular Allegro with three part quavers (ending with a staccato note) alternating with semiquaver fillings’. No.4. Agitato, contained staccato 5 note octaves with leaping 3-notes in the left hand. No.5 Vivace, is in two parts: Scherzando e leggiero: dotted phrases in the right hand accompanied by tenth intervals in the left. Then, a piu lento leggiero scalic middle section (right hand) harmonized by the melody in the left hand, while No.6, Allegro, is rapid motion in thirds, becoming increasingly more complex as it progresses. The gloriously sonorous No.7, Lento, takes a florid melody in the left hand – accompanied by a descant figure in the right- then embellishes the tune, adding bold scale passages. By changing the key, drama is created in the process, closing with a soft ending. Six-chord intervals in No.8 are matched by even wider intervals in the left hand, starting softly and ending on a crescendo. The famous Allegro assai, leggiero ofNo.9 comprises 4-note patterns in the right hand against a simpler staccato left. No.]0 is the equally famous Octaves, Allegro con fuoco: relentless in the two outside sections, with a Mono mosso calmer middle part. It ends in a state of jury. The best known of the set is No.11 ‘Winter Wind’ where a Lento beginning plunges into the Allegro con brio maelstrom. To Idil’s immense credit, every detail shone through, with the clarity of the right hand semiquaverfiguration matching rnarcato chords in the left. Similarly, No.12: the final numben Allegro molto e con fuoco, portrayed an avalanche of semiquaver figures starting forte, then sforzando, ending on a fortissimo. Glorious! Two encores featured a Bach-Busoni transcription followed by a Chopin Nocturne.

We taxied back to the Lansdowne Club for a discussion on music and recordings.

Discourse

Firstly, memories of an old friend – the Russian pianist Lazar Berman, now passed on. Idil remembers his performance of Lisztis Dante Sonata. I in turn, his Royal Festival Hall appearance playing Prokofiev’s Sonata No.6, Lisztis Transcendental Etudes, then recordings for EMI and Melodiya.

Idil: ‘Do you know whatl am planning? To record all the different versions of the Transcendental Etudes sometime in February or March. Of the three versions, the first is nothing to do with the second. And this second version is the most interesting. For instance, in No.12 Chasse- Neige, instead of going straight in to the theme, there is an introduction leading to the first subject. There are also differences in No.4. Mazeppa and in No.2 (no title) we now have a single note followed by an octave. The emphasis has to be free-flowing throughout. It is all very complicated! ’

I mentioned Alexander Romanowsky’s performance of Mazeppa from the Neue Kirk Festival, Ireland, and his totally musical touch and phrasing without forcing the pace.

Idil: ‘In No.8 Wilde Jagd, Presto furioso, particular care should be given to balancing the fortissimos and staccato octaves at the start with the melody, as it emerges. Everything has to be very clear and precise, and this is very difficult. You have to play the music every day, until it becomes as perfect as possible from both a rhythmic and expressive standpoint. In the Second Version of No.10, Allegro agitato molto, Busoni stated that it is almost impossible to make it sound romantic and spontaneous, because of other problems. There may be ways of achieving this, and that is what makes it interesting. The First Version resembles Late Czerny. With Feuxfollets, Ricordanza and Eroica, there are more notes during the Second Version. It is rarely performed.

‘I also have plans to record Berlioz’ Harold in Italy with Rusen Gunes, the ex Principal violist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Liszt’s piano transcription of the orchestral part. My new recording of the Liszt Sonata should be on release by this time; the coupling will be the Liszt-Paganini Etudes. Do you know that he wanted the repeating reply figure ajfer the start to be played by one finger; because ofthe Faustum overtones? My older recording was made some years ago, so, meanwhile a revolution in my thoughts has taken place, and this new version will be completely different!’

I am very impressed with the coupling of Liszt Piano Concertos: Nos. I in E flat major and No.2 in A major together with the diabolic Totentanz in D minor The supporting artists: the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra under Emil Tabakov, also provide precision and stature to the enterprise. I am impressed with Tabakovlv complete Mahler cycle on disc, and was delighted with his performance of Tchaikovskyis Manfred Symphony a few year is back at Fairfield Halls, Croydon. Your treatment of the solo piano parts reminds me of those precious shellac performances by Walter Gieseking (Sir Henry Wood) and Egon Petri (Leslie Heward). (IBA 8.57 1273). When recording Beethoven Sonatas, was there any particular order of priority?

Idil: ’No, the sessions were spread over six years and they were very relaxed, depending on whatl had been currently working on. So, it was the Waldstein Sonata, Op.53 followed by Opus 79, then Op. 10, No.3, (Beethoven Edition No.5, 8.5 7 1255 ) that I started with. During preparation, when I felt everything was going all right, we then went ahead.’

Sefik: ‘Perhaps one or more sessions a month, but in no particular order’.

During Beethoven is later period of composition, he brought in a metronome marking for some of the final sonatas, like the ‘Hammerklavier’. The French pianist, Francois- Frederic Guy, has given success/ul peU‘ormances at the faster metronome indication, and attained a degree of success for his interpretation. How do you feel about the validity of this?

Idil: ‘I believe that you lose some of the essential musical colourings. Of course, it should not be too slow, or too pompous, but some form of compromise is necessary. My earlier recorded version was faster; more hectic, corresponding to the metronome markings but my latest thoughts led me to broaden the tempo without lessening the basic pulse.”

That version will be appearing shortly, but meanwhile I have been compiling a list of impressions of recent releases where variety of touch, constancy in rhythmic pulse, and an overall realization of meaning and understanding what each sonata means and portrays to the listener are all prime considerations. What is already proving an interesting and worthwhile exercise in compilation are the respective layouts, with their comparison of key signatures and contrasting elements: Edition 1, has Sonatas No.1 in F minor; Op.2/1, No.2 in A major; Op.2/2, then the two Opus 49s -No.19 in G minor; No.1, No. 20 in G major; No.2. (8.57 1251)

Edition 4 has Sonata No. 3 in C, Op.2/3 ,w/ Sonata No. 18 in E flat, 0p.31/3 and Sonata No. 5 in C minor 0p.10/1 (8.57 1254) – a particularly fascinating sequence of contrasting keys.

Moving onto the larger planned structures, Edition 8 has the powerful and aggressive Sonata No.23 in F minör Op,5 7, ‘Appassionata’ c/w two later ones, Sonata No. 28 in A, 0p.101, Sonata No. 31 in Aflat 0p.110 ( 8.57 1258).

One of my great favourites is Edition 16: Sonata No. 6 in E Op.10/2, Sonata No.12 in A flat, Op.26, ’Funeral March ’ and Sonata 15 in D, ‘Pastoral ’. (8.5 7 1266). One can practically detect the player is joy in every bar;

Exactly the same can be said of Edition 5: Sonata 9 in E,0p.14/I and Sonata No.10 in G, Op.14/2, counterbalancing the two Op.27s: Sonata No.13 in E flat, 0p.27/1 and Sonata No.14 in C sharp minör Op.27/2, the ever-popular‘Moonlight’ Sonata. (8.57 1260). As I list those currently available, there are still other Sonatas, already recorded and awaiting release.

Next to arrive, in the Archive Edition (1986 LP issue),will couple together the popular Sonata No.8 in C minör ‘Pathetique’ with No.29 in B Flat major; ‘Hammerklavier’. I returned for the moment to the debatable subject of thecomposer is metronome. Could it have been faulty in anyway?

Idil: ‘Maybe, but I think this is a question of how thecomposer himsey heard his music in his inner ear: If it istoo fast, this destroys the musical details’.

But played too slowly, would give a ponderous, heavy, rather meaningless impression to the range of changing harmonies?

Idil: ‘I think the general flow should be somewherein between the two extremes, which makes sense andpreserves the continuity.

For other examples in Beethoven repertoire, I quoted Walter Gieseking and Edwin Fischer The second named brought the greater reaction.

Idil: ‘Fisher could do amazing things to Music – a specialinsight he had which brought out the inner meaning’.

I quoted Fischer Furtwangler and the Philharmonia Orchestra, live in the Emperor Concerto at the Royal Albert Hall in the early 1950s, a performance quite dyferent from their EMI commercial recording. Every new occasion would impose a ‘rethink’ on what went before.

But a contrast of styles between pianist and conductor during an even earlier period could be even more illuminating We struggled to locate a lesser known maestro for VWlhelm Kempjfiv fascinating pre-war I 936 performance with the Berlin Philharmonic. I delved into my collection. Peter Raabe!

Idil’s preferences for German Maestros ranges between Rudolph Kempff and Bruno Walter – in the finale to Beethoven’s Choral Symphony.

But there is another who enjoyed legendary status in 17th – 20th Century Music: Hermann Scherchen. A minor contretemps had arisen during a rehearsal of Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra, Scherchen, stopping to indicate that at a spot her rhythm was wrong in the piano part.

No, I am right.” Idil protested politely.

Scherchen continued his argument, but on examination, the piano score was proved correct and the conductor lv score amended with Scherchen saying “You were right!” Admiration and respect became the order of the day, from then on.

The 5 Beethoven Piano Concertos ofcourse are highly sought after among concertgoers, and here a galaxy of delights with newly minted details awaits connoisseurs of this composer is revolutionary developments in style and originality. Along with the gifted personnel who comprise the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, we have in charge a real favourite among Polish Maestros, much admired for his overall knowledge of classical and romantic repertoire of all kinds and ventures. The highly distinguished Antoni VWt is certainly no stranger to the musical world of Idil Biret and their combined collaborations have gleaned high commendation, along with a special brand of seriousness combined with humour among musical aficianadi and record collectors, alike.

The sparkling humour of Concertos Nos.1 in C and 2 in B flat forms an important role in the combined successes of each, (Edition 3, 8.57 1253), while the serious and imperious factions of No.3 in C minor and No.4 in G plunge the listener into totally new facets in preparation and emendation, (Edition 7, 8.5 7 1256). Perhaps my greatest appreciation, with fresher accolades, goes to Idilis clear division of eighths, 3/5 note phrases and sixteenths, a flowing succession of scales and arpeggios in the opening stanzas of Concerto 5, the so-called ‘Emperor ’ in E Flat.

I firmly believe this also represents the achievements of Wilhelm Kempff the overall clarity, nuances of various delicate hah’ tones, pristine care of approach and total appreciation in stylistic, visionary discovery. These are his gestural gift to his favourite pupil, and she allows us to hear how they should really sound.

Idil’s other great teacher Alfred Cortot also guided her in the direction of instrumental colours and orchestral depths, so much a part of Beethoven’s and Chopin k genius, in particular Although the coupling to the Emperor Concerto, Beethovenis Concert Fantasy in C minor 0p.80 has never been my current favourite, I now hear it in an entirely different, brighter perspective – with 6 distinguished soloists joining forces with the Turkish State Polyphonic Chorus, and liking it very much indeed (Edition 11, 8.57 1261). I must also praise the sound artistry of Gunther Appenheimer in his role of Producer-Engineer

Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies, in the transcribed versions for the pianoforte by Franz Liszt were recorded for EMI in 1985-6. I have them on Long Play in a 6LP box set autographed by Idil. Their IBA release is on 6CDs.

Edition 2 corresponds to Symphonies 1 & 2, (8.57 1252), Edition 13 to Symphony No.3, ‘Eroica’, (8.57 1263), Edition 6 to Symphonies 4 & 5,( 8.57 1256, Editions 14/15, Symphonies Nos.6, ‘Pastoral ’and No.9, ‘Choral ’, (8.57 1264/5) and Edition 9 to Symphonies 7 & 8, (8.5 7 1259).

Compared to other recorded versions, these are regal interpretations that correspond to the open-hearted humour and dramatic fulsomeness of the great composeris original orchestral creations which Liszt himseb’ was careful to preserve in the timbre of his piano realizations.

So far; we are speaking of the Virtuoso element in music – whether the music is Beethoven or Liszt or an excursion into the Neo Classical world of Stravinsky. The popular fusion of Grieg and Schumann – always a Concerto coupling that enjoys popular demand, has more personal associations.

Idil: ‘The Schumann Concerto, was inspired through his love and admiration for his pianist-wife Clara, but in Grieg it is the strength of the work’s melodic content, and, the charm and wonderful appeal the work has with the concert going public. I always think of the country of its origin and the folk element amongst the Norwegians, whenever I play it, and I never consider any virtuoso connections. Instead, I see the wonderful landscape, and cannot understand pianists who try to show off while they perform it! (Schumann & Grieg Piano Concertos in A minor; w/Bilkent S0/Antoni Wit is on 8.57  1270. )

The Schumann Concerto goes back to when I was 5 years old, when Lazare Levy came to Ankara and performed it. Again, I have always liked it very much. In the second movement, the textures are light and very beautiful – almost like an Intermezzo, during which the orchestra has its own special part on display. One can introduce all kinds of detail in the piano part. ’

This raises my query about young pianists not understanding the character of the music they perform. A young French pianist recently gave a brilliant, dramatic performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, then returned to pound his way through Chopin is Etudes Opus 10 at high speed.

Idil: ‘One of the problems concerns the lighter keyboards being manufactured, which confuse the performer into misunderstanding the pressures he needs to apply. Some of them are so light, that you can just pitch the note, and it plays itself. You cannot control them: you either play softer or pure pianissimo. There is nothing in between. It is as pity, but legato playing is just not enough. You can resort to the pedal, but that is strictly for colouring purposes – but it is amazing. What you can achieve by persuasive use of the pedal in so many choices of repertoire? Where you wish to achieve dramatic ejects you use the sustaining pedal, but we should always be capable of producing beautiful sounds with no pedaling at all.

Twice the pedal gave up on me. On one occasion, it happened when Kempff was with me at Liszt’s Grand Daughter’s house in Paris. I was 13 years old and I lost my temper; giving it one large kick! It broke. Kempff later said amusingly that I would be famous if this had happened at a concert. The other time was at a Wigmore Hall recital. Very quickly I started to play legato – it was the only way to try and achieve what I intended.’

I thought of the responsibilities of piano technicians and tuners, but it also reminded me of the Portuguese pianist Sequeira Costa suddenly stopping to carry out a number of necessary adjustments after the start ofa programme. For some, however – like the Russian Grigori Sokolov – it is all part of the entertainment!

Wilhelm Kempff had a unique reputation for creating

Idil: ‘When I first heard Kempff perform Schumann ’s Humoresque {my own favourite} he would concentrate on various sections to obtain exactly what he wanted, then go back to the Schubert Sonata, also in his programme, for a more detailed examination. He would do things like that: for instance, if he was performing Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 110, he would also play through Op. 109 and 111, as well! He didn ’t always rehearse.

I turned now to Alfred Cortot.

Idil: ‘At the Ecole Normale Masterclasses, he would mostly be very polite about our playing, saying ‘That is very nice’ and so on. Then he would talk about the music, in relation to what he wanted from a performing approach. But then, in my individual lessons with him which lasted two years, he was very demanding! At first, I asked mysew ‘Why so nice at the Masterclasses, but not here with me!” It was very interesting.’

Idil’s musical forbears with their challenging influences have not only brought their own rewards, but her own openminded attitudes have remained refreshing and engrossing. Repertoire, formed during her student years, she has extended. While remaining central to her career, it also forms the basis of commercial recording activities. I turned next t oTchaikovsky and his music for Piano and Orchestra. Those who complained that the themes were too effusive, repetitive and ‘Grand’ in style during the popular Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, neglected to acknowledge a clearer division between his wiriting for soloist and supporting orchestra in the works that followed. I quoted Piano Concerto No.2 in G major as a turning point.

Idil: ‘I love the Second Concerto, but only accept the composer’s original version. The thematic repetitions are differentiated. The dynamics are not always in the same places in the piano and orchestral parts, while the material varies considerably in detail and texture. Although I admire Shura Cherkassky’s recorded version, I cannot accept the cuts made by Siloti, while the sheer beauty of the writing – particularly during the slow movement, where solo violin and cello match their thematic duet with the cantabile piano part, gives unique quality to the work.’

* The constant changes of key and orchestral colourings also contribute to the rhytmic fascination of th writing leading ultimately to the brilliantly scored Finale. Bilkent Symphony, Emil Tabakov, conducts.

* The coupling, Concert Fantasy – a work admired by its composer; fuses a number of opposing ideas together into a shorter time span, with ‘ feelings’ of theme and variation, and an interplay element in place of any thematic repetition. This contributes novelty and intrigue to a rarely performed work. Jose Serebrien conducts. (Concerto Edition 5, 8.5 71280).

* Now, for those superb live recorded performances of Saint-Saens Concerto No.5 in F majon ‘Egyptian’and the two Ravel Concertos in G major and D major; for the left hand. The conductor is the great Jean Fournet, who died recently (Concerto Edition 3. 8.5 71 272 ).

How do these performances sound so authentically French?

Idil: ‘I think it is the Hungarian clarinetist in the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra. He made a lot of recordings with that orchestra, and had a French technique that I don’t hear at all nowadays. But he is gifted and has a good collaboration with the other players. It is also something to do with the revolution; there are also Russian and Azerbeyanis, Soviet trained musicians in the orchestra.

The overall success behind these 1990s recordings productions’ lies – of course in the fusion of Idil Biretis insightful playing with the respective forces who comprise the orchestras sectional forces. In colourful and rhythmical terms there is so much to enjoy and relish.

If further proof of this were needed, it surely is evident in a later 2005-6 production for an intriguing programme comprising Massenet’s Piano Concerto (1903) and two works for piano & orchestra by Cesar Franck – Variations symphoniques (1885) and ‘Les Djinns’, poeme symphonique (1884) after Victor Hugo’s text ‘And the child who dreams. Dreams golden dreams from Les Orientales (1829). The Bilkent Symphony can be heard under the direction of the exacting maestro Alain Paris. (Alpha 104).

As one would expect, there is a story connection in the Massenet that derives from a painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) : Les Bohemienne (The Gypsy Girl) 1890. The girl who plays the violin (Irina Nikotina in the musicis opening movement) for a living, has had a bad day and this is reflected by the eternal sadness in her eyes. Hugois prophetic verse ‘Les Djinns’ is printed in full in the original French, and one can easily trace the thematic relationship of some of the themes with the more popular Variations symphoniques, a year later: The balanced beauty of the performances -piano and orchestra – is very touching and ofa high standard throughout.

I asked Idil to comment about the prolific amount of recordings she has continued to make over the years. ‘Oh, I would do most of them again! ’ The answer to this question generally differs according to the changing personality of performers, but depends mainly on the chosen time of the recording session in relation to the artist’s satisfied opinion with their own live performance.

Idil: ‘It is like a photograph. You can identify with your own facial expression, then try to make an assessment based on that. At various times in life you change your opinions and outlook. But you may be wrong, also’.

I registered my delight in her Naxos recordings of Rachrnaninov Concertos I-4 and the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, also having listened and tried to compare with earlier versions. The subject of composer ‘cuts’ was mentioned.

Idil: ‘I wished to record the complete works without the cuts, but a small excision had to be made in one place because of an overall timing. I still wonder if they are longer than they should be’ …. a thought that also concerned the composer; who thereafter made certain decisions on the subject. ‘In certain older recordings, you find a charm which you can identify with. It is like old photos.’

Can you nominate a conductor that you could happily make music with on a Desert Island ?

Idil: ‘Oh, that is a difficult question. But U it were possible somebody like Carlos Kleiber; because he was unique! verything he performed throughout his life. I know all his recordings, but unfortunately never appeared with him. I have also seen all the stills. He was just wonderful.’

I would like now to go back to the period when you made your first long play record. In July I 959, you recorded Schumann Fantasiestucke, Op.12 and Brahms Intermezzi, Op.117 in the Maronite Church, Rue d’Ulm, Paris. It continued with further sessions at Atlantic Recording Studios, New York for F innadar Then, during the same period: Abbey Road Studios, London and Columbia 30th St. Studio, New York; followed by RCA Recording Studios, Studio A, New York, and finishing up at CBS Studios, London – all between the years 1972 to 1980. I was not aware until recently, that the Abbey Road engineer responsible for your recording of Stravinsky Petrouchka – 3 scenes was Neville Boyling, who collaborated with me on playback sessions for EMI reissue labels in the 1960s.

I joined EMI in November 1955, but the only American connections I had were with Mercury and Westminster Records – both contracted to the United Kingdom company between the late 1960s- early 1970s. Subsequently, I spent three years with CBS London in the early 1970s. Despite our very dyferent commitments, my own record Collection then contained some rather prized Idil Biret F innadar LPs! Nom in place of the LPs made at that earlier period, are a series of recorded transfers on CD. I rate them personally as representative of some of the most exciting, expressive and impressive playing from the young, highly g#ted musician I was destined to eventually meet at a later date!

Details of the first seven CDs are:

Archive Edition 1.

Ravel: Serenade grotesque, Gaspard de le nuit. Stravinsky:

Les cinq doigts, Valse pour les enfants, Petrouchka – 3 scenes. 8.571274.

Archive Edition 2.

Chopin: Mazurkas in A minor; 0p.17/4, B major; 0p.56/1.

Scriabin: Sonata No.10, 0p.70. Prokofiev: Sonatas No.2 in D minor 0p.14, No.7 in B flat majon 0p.83, 8.5 71 275.

Direct to Disc Recordings.

Archive Edition 3.

New Line Piano. Boucourechliev: Archipel IV Castiglioni:

Cangianti. Brouwer: Sonata Pian e Forte. Mimaroglu:

Session. 8.5 71 276.

Archive Edition 4.

Berg: Piano Sonata Op.1. Webern: Variations, Op.2 7.

Boulez: Piano Sonata No.2. 8.5 71277.

Archive Edition 5.

Mahler: Quartet for Piano and Strings. Franck: Quintet

for Piano and Strings. w/London String Quartet (Carl Pini,

Benedict Cruft, Rusen Gunes, Roger Smith). 8.571 278.

Archive Edition 6.

Schumann: Fantasiestucke, Op.12. Brahms Intermezzi,

Op.117.

8.57 1279.

Archive Edition 7.

Miaskovsky: Sonatas No.2, Op 13, No.3, Op.1 9. Liszt:

Nuages gris, Lugubre Gondola No.1. Scriabin: Five

Preludes, Op 74. Rachmaninov: Prelude, 0p.3/2.

8.571281 .

Bearing in mind usual editing procedures for commercial recordings, The Direct to Disc Recordings in Edition 4 are remarkably successful, with an immediacy in spontaneity that characterizes the strength behind the interpretations. Regretably, the chosen ‘second take’ of the Scriabin Sonata I0 was rejected for ‘noises ’, and Take I substituted. The New Line Piano selection in Edition 3, may of been considered daring at the time, but now reveals a remarkable originality in choice of repertoire.

Idil recorded all three Pierre Boulez Sonatas for Naxos in 1999, but her earlier 1972 version of Sonata 2 on 8.571277 received wonderful American press comments in 1973, and 1982 when she performed the work at Merkin Concert Hall ( of Broadway). I had some intellectual problems understanding the work – preferring the larger Pli selon Pli for soprano and orchestra that I fell for during the CBS recording sessions with Boulez conducting, and subsequently at the Berlin Music Festival under the direction of Michael Gielen. While working for CBS, pianist Charles Rosen made some recordings, so I decided to ‘come clean ’ and ask Pierre for heh? towards understanding the structure and meaning of his instrumental compositions. He was enormously helpful and clear cut in his suggestions. I sought Idil’s guidance.’

Idil: ‘It should be like mime – very post-Lisztian, with big gestures! And the accents – they are never together; You know, after the war Boulez was always a champion ofthe Avant Garde and he has that wonderful way of explaining things. But with Gyorgy Ligeti, you have to listen to the inner voices. ’

My knowledge and understanding of the New Viennese School has improved through increased listening. Now I can listen to Schoenberg is 5 Orchestral Pieces, just as U” they sounded tonal – although they are obviously not! VWth Webern it is more dwicult, but the early post-romantic works are quite beautU’ul. Bergis instrumental, chamben vocal and operatic works however; I have that natural afinity with because of their great tonal-emotional basis that immediately communicates with the listener.

Going back to 1949 and 1953, reveals the very young Idil, with her spontaneous joie de vivre at 8 years in a recorded group consisting of J.S.Bach: Sob‘egietto, Couperin: Soeur Musique, Tic-Toc-Choc. Bach: Prelude and F ugue, Book 1/3. Beethoven: Bagatelle. Debussy: Gradus ad Parnassum (Childrens Corner). From 1953, there are wonderful expressive passages in Scarlatti: Sonata. Bach: Chromatic Fantasie and F ugue. Debussy: Le petit Bergen Brahms: Intermezzo 0p.118/6. Each group is prefaced by the young artist interview by her mother Mrs. Leman Biret, who also provides fascinating reminiscences in the booklet. From her 1959 LP recording, we also hear again Schumannis Fantasiestucke, 0p.12. on Idil is Biretis Early Paris Recordings. IBA 001 (Turkey only).

A natural charm radiates from her outgoing personality.

Idil: ’Do you know, the wrong notes are not necessarily always the greatest concern. It is the overall impression, the atmosphere created, the message of music spreading and reaching others…that is more important…’

She laughed happily, contented that we will see each other again, soon.