Posted by: rbbadger | April 11, 2012

Idil Biret

One pianist who has recorded quite a bit yet who still concertizes is Idil Biret.  I first stumbled across her with a CD of the piano sonatas of Pierre Boulez.   She is from Turkey and is a native daughter of Ankara.  She was, like most pianists, a child prodigy.  However, she was a prodigy of such formidable powers that when the president of Turkey at the time, İsmet İnönü, heard her play he had special legislation passed to allow her to leave Turkey at the tender age of 7 to study in France.  While in France, she studied with Nadia Boulanger.  Boulanger was a major figure in French music.  She was a composer, conductor, organist, and most importantly of all, one of the greatest teachers of music in history.  Among her students were Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Roy Harris, Astor Piazzolla, Virgil Thomson, and many others.  Biret also studied with the great French pianist and conductor Alfred Cortot and the great German pianist Wilhelm Kempff. 

Many of her recordings were for the Naxos label.  The Naxos label, which has lower prices than most other labels, however does not skimp on quality.  While they may not spend lots of money promoting the careers of their artists, they nevertheless put out recordings of quality and often recordings of great distinction.  For Naxos, Biret accomplished the feat of recording the entire works of Chopin.  She made 40 CDs with them, selling over two million recordings, something which is an accomplishment for any classical artist.  Alfred Brendel has said that other pianists were terrified of the apparent ease with which she learns new works as well as her technical prowess.  She has since founded her own label and is recording her vast repertoire again.

Biret has such an amazing technique.  She can play some of the most difficult 20th century scores, such as the Boulez sonatas just as well as she can play Chopin or Liszt.  Liszt also made a number of transcriptions and paraphrases of operas and symphonies.  Some of his most fiendishly difficult transcriptions are his transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies (Gould recorded a couple of these and Biret has recorded all nine) and Berlioz symphonies.  He also made some arrangements from works by his son-in-law, the composer Richard Wagner.

Here is Idil Biret performing Liszt’s transcription of the Tannhäuser Overture of Wagner.



  1. Wow, she’s amazing!

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