Idil Biret

Idil Biret Archive Edition, Vol. 3

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To some listeners who followed the Finnadar Records label during its decade-long run at the tail end of the LP era, IBA's Idil Biret: Archive Edition, Vol. 3, will be like the realization of a seemingly impossible dream; the re-release of 1978's New Line Piano, a Finnadar record that was particularly difficult to find and that hardly anybody bought. It wasn't that the album was a bad one; just simply by this time Finnadar's corporate parent, Warner-Atlantic, wasn't that interested in promoting or distributing records like these when it had so much on its hands with big-name, best-selling artists like Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac on the roster. So most of the copies of New Line Piano had their corners slashed off and went straight to the cutout bins, and even those new music fans diligent enough to turn up a copy were a little befuddled as to what the phrase "New Line Piano" might mean.

New Line Piano represented the most difficult and obscure piano music that Biret recorded for Finnadar; expert listeners in 1978 might have recognized André Boucourechliev's name from an electro-acoustic work circulated on an earlier album; three works of Niccolò Castiglioni were available in the U.S. by that time, all released on Time Mainstream LPs, mostly out of print by 1978. A handful of Cuban composer Leo Brouwer's guitar works on Musical Heritage Society LPs drawn from the Erato catalog, mostly in collections; his great fame as a composer of challenging, yet popularly oriented, music had yet to come. Ironically, Ilhan Mimaroglu -- who unlike some other composer/producers, never shied away from including his own music within the context of albums that he produced -- was the best-known name among these four in 1978, at least in the United States. In a way, his piece Session is the most compelling of these four, with its liberal use of electronics, tape, and recorded conversation about the terms of Biret's contract, with Biret's own voice tipping into the conversation herself, illustrating the essential futility of producing albums like New Line Piano within the corporate, major-label business structure. Brouwer's Sonata Pian e Forte is also quite striking, contrasting conventional piano textures with a welter of dense, multilayered material that at times can even be humorous in effect. Castiglioni's Cangianti is impressive, consisting of highly virtuosic and clearly organized material that collides with more artless elements. The Boucourechliev wears the least well of the four, being based on a mobile score consisting of gestures that are thick and blocky; without access to the modules, the listener is left to guess at what is happening, and as this piece is part of a large cycle of other works that tend to complete the thought, Archipel IV seems out on a limb.

Decades have passed since New Line Piano came and went, and one word in its title -- "New" -- is no longer applicable. Biret, of course, would go on to record much of the standard piano literature for Naxos in outings that were widely praised and cherished by classical music fans across the board, not many of whom much missed things like New Line Piano. The obvious constant is that Biret works very, very hard to get this thing off the ground, and the pianism throughout is spectacular, even overdubbed or buried in electronic sounds. The Atlantic pressings of these albums were hardly state-of-the-art and to some measure ticky; from this Biret Archive CD the sound is clear as a bell and in your face and it fairly jumps from the surface of the disc. The multidimensionality of these recordings is not only preserved, but enhanced. The re-release of New Line Piano fills a major gap in the new music discography; maybe people will hear it this time.

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