Biret, Idil (1941–)

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Biret, Idil
(1941–)

Idil Biret is a Turkish pianist who has been called one of the greatest pianist prodigies of the twentieth century.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Birit was born in Ankara, Turkey, on 21 November 1941, and displayed an outstanding talent for music from the age of three. Biret was sent to Paris with her parents by the Turkish government—the Turkish parliament passed a special law enabling her to go—when she was seven. Trained at the Paris Conservatory by Nadia Boulanger, Biret performed Wolfgang Amadens Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos with Wilhelm Kempff at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées under the baton of Joseph Keilberth in 1953 when she was only eleven. At age fifteen she graduated from the Paris Conservatory with three first prizes. Biret continued studying piano with Alfred Cortot and was a lifelong disciple of Kempff.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Birit's mother played the piano rather well and, with other musical members of the family, there was always chamber music at home. Even though Boulanger never encouraged her to enter competitions, Biret's concert career started very early. She was invited to the Soviet Union for an extensive concert tour when she was sixteen years old by recommendation of Emil Gilels. Her debut in the United States, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Leisendorf, where she played Sergey Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, unfortunately took place on the day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963. The following year she performed the same work with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Monteux.

In 1986 Biret launched a colossal project of recording all of Beethoven's nine symphonies' piano transcriptions by Franz Liszt. In the same year she performed the nine symphonies in a series of four concerts at the Montpellier Festival in France. Since this outstanding event she has continued to record the complete solo piano works and piano concertos of Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, and Rachmaninoff. Biret has completed the recording of the Études of György Ligeti and the piano transcription of Igor Stravinsky's Firebird. Her latest project is recording Ludwig van Beethoven's thirty-two sonatas for the piano.

THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE

Biret has received numerous awards from around the world, including the Grand Prix du Disque Chopin prize in Poland in 1995. That same year her recording of the Pierre Boulez sonatas won the annual Golden Diapason award and was selected among the best recordings of the year by the French newspaper Le Monde.

LEGACY

Biret has been a major influence on the musical life in Turkey. Generations of young people were encouraged by her example and chose music as their profession. Such younger Turkish pianists as Gulsin Onay, Huseyin Sermet, fazil say, Ozgur Aydin, and Emre Elivar followed the example of Biret toward international reputation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Idil Biret's official Web site. Available from http://www.idilbiret.org.

                                                             Filiz Ali

                                updated by Michael R. Fischbach

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Idil Biret

Birth: 1941, Ankara, Turkey

Nationality: Turkish

Education: Trained at the Paris Conservatory

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1953: Performed Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos with Wilhelm Kempff at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, under the baton of Joseph Keilberth
  • 1963: Made her American debut. Played Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no. 3 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Erich Leisendorf
  • 1986: Launched a colossal project of recording all of Beethoven's nine symphonies' piano transcriptions by Franz Liszt
  • 1995: Received Grand Prix du Disque Chopin prize in Poland