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All Music Guide
Beethoven Concertos Vol.1
By James Mannheim

In 1949, eight-year-old Turkish pianist Idil Biret was presented by Nadia Boulanger in Paris as a prodigy. Given that, it's remarkable that her playing is still fresh more than six decades later, but this pairing of Beethoven's first two piano concertos offers lively, well-thought-out performances that could satisfy any buyer. The booklet refers to an Idil Biret Archive with plans to release the pianist's older recordings, but this one is apparently new, having been recorded in Ankara in 2008. Perhaps the nicest surprise is Ankara's little-known Bilkent Orchestra, which, under Polish conductor Antoni Wit, delivers a silky tone in the two slow movements and adapts itself well to Biret's strikingly varied readings. Biret's playing is in the precise, intelligent mold of one of her teachers, Wilhelm Kempff, with a small admixture of the tempo freedoms characteristic of the other, Alfred Cortot. Sample the finale of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19, which unfolds with unerring logic from Biret's restless yet graceful treatment of the syncopated figure at the beginning. Biret's readings are not among those that look for obstreperous boundary-seeking in these two concertos, but she finds a fine degree of structural complexity in each one. The booklet notes are subpar, with unhelpful references to measure numbers and an appreciation of dubious value pertaining to the apparently commonplace Beethoven portrait owned by the author. Fans of this veteran Turkish pianist, however, will be delighted to find her still in top form.

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