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Gramophone 2011
Liszt Sonata / Paganini Etudes
By Bryce Morrison

A record-breaking pianist turns to Liszt and shows no signs of lagging With complete cycles of Beethoven, Brahms (including the 51 Exercises), Chopin, Rachmaninov, Ligeti's Etudes and Boulez's piano sonatas and with much more to come, Idil Biret seems destined to enter the Guinness Book of Records. But if there has sometimes been a suspicion of quantity rather than quality, her new Liszt album prompts a reappraisal of her extraordinary talent. True, you will look in vain in her Liszt Sonata for the innovatory scope of Brendel (the reverse of, say, Pogorelich's self-consciously "different" interpretation), the colour and nuance of Curzon or the liquid-fire brilliance of Argerich, but you will none the less hear playing of a formidable power and assurance. Her fugue is more pedestrian than concentrated but the pages before the valedictory coda, with its glassy sighs and veiled threats, take off like the proverbial rocket. She also storms the central Andante sostenuto's climax with a vengeance, turning on the fiercest voltage. There is no mistaking her lightning reflexes in the second of the Paganini Etudes and her vivo in the imitation sautille bowing of No 4 would make even Heifetz envious. Biret's brilliant, iron-clad Steinway is well recorded and if there are few poetic revelations in her Liszt, there is stunning proficiency and a forbidding manner very much her own.

Bryce Morrison
Gramophone, April 2011

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