Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit / Idil Biret Archive Edition, Vol. 20
In November 1949, at the age of eight, Idil Biret entered the studios of ORTF (Radiodiffusion Television Francaise) in Paris and made her first recordings; these were works by Couperin, Bach, Beethoven and Debussy. In the following decades she made nearly 100 LPs and CDs, released on ten record labels (Pretoria, Vega, Decca, Atlantic/Finnadar, Pantheon, EMI, Naxos, Marco Polo, Alpha, BMP) and many recordings for radio and television stations around the world. These included the complete piano works of Brahms, Chopin and Rachmaninov as well as the Sonatas of Boulez and the Etudes of Ligeti. The Idil Biret Archive (IBA) is now bringing together her past and present recording; as the copyrights are obtained, old recordings no longer available commercially are being released together with her new recordings.
The transcriptions by Liszt of Beethoven's Symphonies, originally recorded for EMI, and the newly recorded 32 Sonatas and all the Piano Concertos of Beethoven were released by IBA and also made available in a box set. All the Piano Concertos of Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Grieg and the nine LPs recorded for Atlantic/Finnadar in New York which include works by Boulez, Webern, Berg, Ravel and Stravinsky were also released. Among the recent new releases are Liszt's Etudes and the piano transcription of Berlioz's Harold en Italie, Schumann's Carnaval, Fantasie and other works, all five Piano Concertos of Hindemith and, in the Archive Edition, the early LPs made in France for Pretoria (Schumann, Brahms), Vega (Bartok, Prokofiev, Brahms, Beethoven) and Decca (Rachmaninov). IBA is distributed worldwide by Naxos.
This release features three distinct, scintillating performances of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit, plus his early Sérénade grotesque.
...the inclusion of three decades’ versions of Gaspard de la nuit allows for some fascinating listening. The third piece in the suite, Scarbo, sounds largely the same in all the recordings and runs about the same amount of time, from 9:11 to 9:25. The nightmarish characteristics of the devilish dwarf are made clear throughout but are never overstated: there is a subtlety to Ravel’s portrayal that Biret captures very well.
Though born in Turkey, Biret’s musical education was in France, where, as a child prodigy, she became the favourite pupil of the legendary mentor, Nadia Boulenger, her Ravel performances in the concert hall becoming a benchmark of good taste. If we turn the clock back to 1965, when she was twenty-four, and living in Paris, we find Decca, having bought out the French label, Vega—with whom Biret had a contract—offering her studio time to make two discs. The sessions were to include, Gaspard de la nuit, one of the first works she placed in her concert repertoire, and was intended for release on one LP. Sadly the test pressing showed the quality of the sound had fallen short of her expectations, and it was agreed not to publish it, the acetate masters being left with Biret. In recent times, those working in the new technological world expressed the possibility of restoring it to a quality that could prove acceptable to her. That included Mark-Obert Thorn, who has been responsible for a whole raft of restored discs from the 1960’s, many appearing on the Naxos Historic Label. It had to be as a ‘best endeavour’ release, though it does allow us to hear her youthful picture of water in the opening Ondine, where she closely follows the indications in the printed score. Ten years later, and now in New York, it seems to flow more naturally from her fingers, but it is the second, and pivotal picture of Le gibet, the difference is most noticeable. It is the picture of the dead body swinging from the gallows, that her first account has it metronomic evenness, while much slower in 1975, Biret is more intent on capturing the gruesome scene, which she chillingly achieved. Now we reach the beautiful sound of 1984, and in this final instalment we can add together all of the many virtues she has brought to the work in sound worthy of her performance.
-- David's Review Corner
Release Date: January 29, 2021
Catalog Number: 8571413
Period: 20th Century
Composer: Maurice Ravel
Performer: Idil Beret