Idil Biret's cycle of Beethoven sonata recordings, issued on her own Idil Biret Archive (IBA) label, has been an ongoing delight and a summary of insights gained over a lifetime by a veteran Beethoven interpreter. Biret was a student of Wilhelm Kempff, and like his, her playing is precise without being intellectual. Here she offers two pairs of sonatas, each published under a single opus number. The two sonatas of Op. 14, seemingly limpid and almost artless, actually offer some of the widest range of interpretation possibilities of the entire cycle, and Biret's quiet readings lie at an opposite extreme from the punchy essays of an András Schiff. She rarely indeed gets to fortissimo, and the beginning of each movement seems impossibly self-effacing. But the method in each one gradually emerges, and it's artfully enough unfolded that you're always waiting for the next step. The program is full of brilliant strokes, like smirking humor Biret finds in the seemingly pat slow movement of the Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14/2, or her way of turning the basic triadic material of the opening movement of the Piano Sonata No. 13 in E flat major, Op. 27/1, into a set of structural markers, revealing its subtle relationship with the surrounding polyphony. Throughout, Biret finds small dissonances and other quirks in the music that have been there all along, but that few listeners will have noticed. Only the famed Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2, "Moonlight," disappoints somewhat with its plain reading. Biret's set is essential listening for the perfect Beethovenian.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonata No. 9 in E major, Op. 14, No. 1|
|Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14, No. 2|
|Sonata No. 13 in E flat major, Op. 27, No. 1|
|Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 "Moonlight"|