Sitting through dreary recitals in her native Turkey, she considered Chopin “the synonym of teary sentimental music.” So how did Idil Biret become one of the world’s great Chopin interpreters?
For Idil Biret, the road to Chopin led through Russian composer Alexander Scriabin – and two of the most famous pianists of the 20th century. First, Wilhelm Kempff encouraged her to study Chopin. Then, when she started playing Scriabin and searched for the origins of his inspiration, she says “I found Chopin.”
Idil Biret later studied with one of the world’s most celebrated Chopinists: Alfred Cortot. She says she admired Cortot’s nuanced approach to Chopin, but his style of playing had fallen out of fashion.
Fast forward to 1989. Idil Biret still played only a handful of Chopin pieces. But the newly-formed record label Naxos wanted to be the first to put Chopin’s complete output on CD. Biret was tapped for the job. She spent the next three years wholly submerged in Chopin.
Observers were skeptical: Naxos is a budget label and Idil Biret was hardly a household name. But the critics were bowled over. Biret’s recordings even won the Grand Prize in Poland’s International Chopin Record Competition in 1995.
In her approach to Chopin, the key words for Biret are “moderation” and “classicism.” “One should ideally never go beyond a limit of sound,” she says, “and keep in mind as the criteria the possibilities of the human voice." - Frank Dominguez & Don Lee