İdil Biret (born 21 November 1941 in Ankara, Turkey) is a Turkish concert pianist, renowned for her interpretations of the Romantic repertoire.
Biret began her lessons at the age of five with Mithat Fenmen, who had studied under Nadia Boulanger and Alfred Cortot. When she was seven, the Turkish parliament passed a special law which enabled her to study abroad, studying at the Paris Conservatory in France under the tutelage of Nadia Boulanger. She also credits Madeleine de Valmalète for having introduced her to composers such as Brahms, whose complete works she would later record. She graduated with three prizes at the age of 15. She continued her education with Alfred Cortot and Wilhelm Kempff.
From the age of 16, Biret played as a soloist with the most distinguished orchestras in the world including the London Symphony, the Philharmonia, the London Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Leningrad Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Tokyo Philharmonic, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the National Orchestra of France and the Sydney Symphony. She collaborated with the eminent conductors such as Hermann Scherchen, Pierre Monteux, Erich Leinsdorf, Rudolf Kempe, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Aaron Copland, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Mackerras, Jean Fournet, Moshe Atzmon, Antoni Wit and Hiroyuki Iwaki. Biret also gave concerts at the festivals of Berlin, Montreal, Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Montpellier, Nohant, Persepolis, Royan and Athens.
She has been a jury member at several piano competitions: Van Cliburn (USA), Queen Elisabeth Belgium), Montreal (Canada), Liszt (Weimar, Germany) and Busoni (Italy).
Her numerous recordings (more than 80 today) for labels such as EMI, Atlantic, Finnadar, Naxos include the world-premiere recording of Liszt's transcriptions of the nine Beethoven symphonies (EMI 6LP/1986), complete solo piano works and concertos of Chopin (15CD/1992), of Brahms (12CD/1997), Rachmaninoff (10CD/2000) and the piano transcription of Stravinsky’s ballet music The Firebird (2003) and many else. Biret's wide repertoire encompasses much of the late Classical and Romantic piano literature. She is probably best known for her Chopin recordings, which won her the prestigious 'Grand Prix du Disque Frédéric Chopin' in Poland in 1995. In 2004 the sale of her Naxos CDs worldwide reached two million copies. Naxos commemorated this event by presenting Biret with a platinum disc. The same year the Boulez sonatas recording won the annual Golden Diapason award and was selected among the best recordings of the year by Le Monde newspaper in France.
Idil Biret has played in cycles the complete piano works of Beethoven and Brahms. In the 1980s she performed in two series of concerts Beethoven’s 32 sonatas and the piano transcription (Liszt) of all the 9 Symphonies, the latter broadcast live by Radio France. In the 1990s she played Beethoven’s five Piano Concertos, the Choral Fantasia and the Triple Concerto in five concerts. In 1997 she played all the solo piano works of Brahms in a series of five recitals in Germany during the composer’s centennial anniversary.
Her recordings of 20th century classical pieces include the three piano sonatas of Pierre Boulez (Naxos Records 1995) as well as the piano works and editions of Wilhelm Kempff (Marco Polo 1991). Idil Biret also recorded the etudes (volume 1 and 2) of György Ligeti for Naxos, which was released in 2003. Earlier, in the 1970s she recorded in New York for Finnadar/Atlantic records works by Boucourechliev, Anton Webern, Alban Berg, Mimaroglu, Leo Brouwer, Castiglioni, Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Prokofiev and Nikolai Myaskovsky.
In September 2006 a biography "Idil Biret - Une Pianiste Turque en France" was written by a French author, Prof. Dominique Xardel and published by Buchet/Chastel in France. The book has been recently translated into Turkish and published by Can Yayinlari. The German translation of the book has been published by Staccato Verlag in September 2007. Polish, Russian, Armenian and Greek translations will be available shortly. English translation of the book will also be available in a special edition in July 2009.
Recently, she recorded the complete Beethoven piano sonatas and concertos (including the Choral Fantasy) for her own label, IBA (Idil Biret Archive); the results will be released in 2008-2009 as an integral set, along with her 1986 EMI recordings of the nine Beethoven symphonies as transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt. The complete set will include 19 CDs. The first release is on December 16, 2008; the second will be in February 2009, with succeeding volumes released every other month. Biret recorded most of the sonatas near Brussels between 2001-2005 (three were recorded in 1994). She recorded the concertos with the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit in 2008. Biret is the only pianist to have performed all of Beethoven's piano sonatas, concertos and Liszt transcriptions of the nine symphonies in public concerts. She is now the first pianist to have recorded them all. A DVD, "The Making of the Beethoven Recordings" is in preparation.
Biret is now preparing a new edition of all of Chopin's piano scores for the New York publisher International Music Company.
Awards and recognitions
In 1995, Biret's recordings of Chopin's entire oeuvre was awarded the "Grand Prix du Disque Frédéric Chopin" in Poland. The same year, she won the "Diapason d'Or" prize in France for her recording of Boulez's sonatas, which was selected among the best recordings of the year by the newspaper 'Le Monde'.
Biret also received the following awards: the Lily Boulanger Memorial Prize in Boston (U.S.), the Harriet Cohen/Dinu Lipatti Gold Medal in London (UK) the Polish Prize for Artistic Merits, the National Knight Merit Order of France, the Adelaide Ristori Prize, Italy. In 2007 she was decorated with Distinguished Service Order - Cavalry Cross by the Polish President Lech Kaczynski for her contributions to Polish culture with her recordings and performances of Chopin's music.
* Wilhelm Kempff (Germany) "My favourite disciple Idil Biret... This genius pianist belongs to the class of elect musicians of our time."
* Igor Kipnis (USA) "The complete Chopin set by Idil Biret can stand among the highest echelons of contemporary Chopin playing."
* Donald Henahan (USA) "Only a brave soul and a confident technician would set out in public to play Liszt's transcription for piano of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, as Idil Biret did."
* Tully Potter (England) "The distinguished pianist Idil Biret shows herself to be one of the finest exponents of Chopin's concertos in the world today. I cannot think of any competitor who can offer better performances than these."
* Henry-Louis de la Grange (France) "Idil Biret, this great pianist, who in 1986 victoriously launched an assault on Liszt's transcription of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, does it again today by playing Chopin in its entirety in a breathtaking interpretation."
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