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Beethoven Edition Vol 3 - Piano Concertos Vol 1 / Idil Biret, Antoni Wit, Et Al

Release Date: 12/16/2008 
Label:  Iba [idil Biret Archives] Catalog #: 8571253   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Idil Biret
Conductor:  Antoni Wit
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bilkent Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos: No. 1; No. 2 Idil Biret (pn); Antoni Wit, cond; Bilkent SO NAXOS 8.571253 (67:38)

With Turkish pianist Idil Biret embarking on a “Beethoven Edition” for Naxos including the sonatas, concertos, and Liszt transcriptions of the symphonies, it might be instructive to note that her biographical materials (and some reviews) emphasize a connection with mentor Wilhelm Kempff and describe her as a disciple of Alfred Cortot. There is certainly no shortage of recorded evidence to comb for Read more signs of interpretive influence from these two titans, as Biret has recorded massive chunks of the piano repertoire. I see little clear link in her interpretations of these concertos, but it serves little purpose to judge an artist on the degree to which she follows the strictures of her mentors.

These concertos were originally recorded by EMI Electrola in 1986, and have now been subsumed by the IBA (Idil Biret Archive) and distributed by Naxos. The recording is of a higher caliber than other of her recent releases of Beethoven repertoire, though the piano is fronted a bit more than necessary and ambient noise (page turns?) can be intrusive.

These accounts of the concertos hold some real pleasures, and the interpretations seem well planned and delivered with a clear and consistently vibrant point of view. There is a tendency to make her points more emphatic than is necessary, as in the middle movement of the first concerto, where peaks of lyrical phrases are punched harder than is needed to make the contours clearly audible. This propensity only barely subtracts from what are otherwise insightful and poetic readings of the two middle movements.

The finales of the two concertos are the weakest movements. They are not lacking for energy or vision, nor do there seem to be any miscalculations regarding tempos or rubato. Instead there is a tendency for slight but noticeable deterioration in dexterity when the composer demands an extra bolt of speed or quick ornament. Perhaps worse is the tendency to compensate for these smudges by applying a heavy hand when a more fleet approach would suit the spirit of the music better. Contrasts are vividly etched, but excessive weight seems to impede the propulsive energy embedded in these concertos’ final statements.

The Bilkent Symphony Orchestra is new to me, and I am only marginally familiar with their leader, the Polish maestro Antoni Wit. Sometimes these partnerships suggest a hastily prepared vanity project, but the collaboration seems carefully and thoughtfully designed. Unanimity of ensemble is not as tight nor is wind intonation as pristine as in major ensembles, but Wit deserves kudos for the hushed, airy quality of sound he draws from his strings and woodwinds in quiet passages in the slow movements, and he shares Biret’s predilection for the lovingly molded phrase.

With so much competition for these concertos at every price level by the finest pianists, orchestras, and conductors over many decades, it is not easy to give an unqualified recommendation to this disc. On the other hand, there does seem to be a sizable contingent of admirers of Biret who will no doubt snap up every volume released from her massive archive. This is one instance in which the ability to sample individual downloaded tracks can be invaluable for the smart shopper.

FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano no 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Idil Biret (Piano)
Conductor:  Antoni Wit
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bilkent Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria 
Concerto for Piano no 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Idil Biret (Piano)
Conductor:  Antoni Wit
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bilkent Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793/1798; Vienna, Austria 

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