Turkish pianist Idil Biret has simultaneously looked back at her recorded legacy, in a series under the rubric Idil Biret Archive, and embarked on a career-defining cycle of Beethoven's piano sonatas, collectively titled the Idil Biret Beethoven Edition. The present album, recorded in 2008, is the final release in the latter series, focusing on the most gigantic and extreme of Beethoven's sonatas, the Piano Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier"). The two short sonatas that begin the program almost have the effect of curtain raisers, although the lovely, meditative recording Piano Sonata No. 22 in F major, Op. 54, would be worth the cost of admission by itself; Biret completely runs counter to usual type for this sonata, which is generally taken as a kind of pair of bagatelles. The "Hammerklavier" is essentially of a piece with the 1980s version in the Idil Biret Archive set. She slows down the opening movement instead of storming the barricades, revealing an intricate network of related little ornaments in the music that nobody else has noticed. The slow movement, clocking in at a substantially longer-than-average 20:54, is almost two minutes longer than that of the earlier version, and you can take your pick; the momentum is sustained here, but the effect of Beethoven's syncopations in the subsequent returns of the main material, heard by modern ears as a kind of jazz dirge, is a bit diluted at this slow tempo. Certainly well worth hearing, like all of Biret's final statements on Beethoven, but perhaps not the high point of a consistently fine set.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonata No. 22 in F major, Op. 54|
|Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78|
|Sonata No. 29 in B flat major, Op. 106 "Hammerklavier"|