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Idil Biret is a Turkish pianist who has been called one of the greatest pianist prodigies of the twentieth century.


Birit was born in Ankara, Turkey, on 21 November 1941, and displayed an outstanding talent for music from the age of three. Biret was sent to Paris with her parents by the Turkish government—the Turkish parliament passed a special law enabling her to go—when she was seven. Trained at the Paris Conservatory by Nadia Boulanger, Biret performed Wolfgang Amadens Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos with Wilhelm Kempff at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées under the baton of Joseph Keilberth in 1953 when she was only eleven. At age fifteen she graduated from the Paris Conservatory with three first prizes. Biret continued studying piano with Alfred Cortot and was a lifelong disciple of Kempff.


Birit’s mother played the piano rather well and, with other musical members of the family, there was always chamber music at home. Even though Boulanger never encouraged her to enter competitions, Biret’s concert career started very early. She was invited to the Soviet Union for an extensive concert tour when she was sixteen years old by recommendation of Emil Gilels. Her debut in the United States, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Leisendorf, where she played Sergey Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 , unfortunately took place on the day of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963. The following year she performed the same work with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pierre Monteux.

In 1986 Biret launched a colossal project of recording all of Beethoven’s nine symphonies’ piano transcriptions by Franz Liszt. In the same year she performed the nine symphonies in a series of four concerts at the Montpellier Festival in France. Since this outstanding event she has continued to record the complete solo piano works and piano concertos of Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, and Rachmaninoff. Biret has completed the recording of the Études of György Ligeti and the piano transcription of Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird . Her latest project is recording Ludwig van Beethoven’s thirty-two sonatas for the piano.


Biret has received numerous awards from around the world, including the Grand Prix du Disque Chopin prize in Poland in 1995. That same year her recording of the Pierre Boulez sonatas won the annual Golden Diapason award and was selected among the best recordings of the year by the French newspaper Le Monde .


Biret has been a major influence on the musical life in Turkey. Generations of young people were encouraged by her example and chose music as their profession. Such younger Turkish pianists as Gulsin Onay, Huseyin Sermet, FAZIL SAY , Ozgur Aydin, and Emre Elivar followed the example of Biret toward international reputation.


Name: Idil Biret

Birth: 1941, Ankara, Turkey

Nationality: Turkish

Education: Trained at the Paris Conservatory


  • 1953: Performed Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos with Wilhelm Kempff at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, under the baton of Joseph Keilberth
  • 1963: Made her American debut. Played Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 3 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Erich Leisendorf
  • 1986: Launched a colossal project of recording all of Beethoven’s nine symphonies’ piano transcriptions by Franz Liszt
  • 1995: Received Grand Prix du Disque Chopin prize in Poland
Birkeland, Kristian Olaf Bernhard [next] [back] Biret, Idil

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almost 3 years ago

Please find below and updated biography of Idil Biret as of November 2014

Idil Biret was born in Ankara. She started to play the piano at the age of three and later studied at the Paris Conservatoire under the guidance of Nadia Boulanger, graduating at the age of fifteen with three first prizes. She was a pupil of Alfred Cortot and a lifelong disciple of Wilhelm Kempff. She embarked on her career as a soloist at the age of sixteen appearing with major orchestras in the principal music centres of the world like Boston Symphony, Leningrad Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, London Symphony, Warsaw Philharmonic in collaboration with conductors of greatest distinction such as Erich Leinsdorf, Pierre Monteux, Hermann Scherchen, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Kazimierz Kord, Antoni Wit. To many major festival appearances may be added membership of juries for international competitions including the Van Cliburn, Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians and Busoni competitions. She has received the Lili Boulanger memorial Award in Boston, the Harriet Cohen / Dinu Lipatti Gold Medal in London, the Polish Cavalry Cross of the Order of Merit, the Adelaide Ristori Prize in Italy, the French Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite and the State Artist distinction in Turkey. Her more than one hundred records since the 1960s include the first recordings of Liszt’s transcriptions of the nine symphonies of Beethoven for EMI, Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique for Atlantic/Finnadar and for Naxos the complete piano works of Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninov, the three Sonatas of Boulez, the Etudes of Ligeti and the Firebird piano transcription by Stravinsky, with a Marco Polo disc of the piano compositions and transcriptions of her mentor Wilhelm Kempff. These records have sold nearly three million copies. Her Boulez recording the Golden Diapason of the year award in France in 1995 and the complete Chopin recordings have received a Grand Prix du Disque Frédéric Chopin award in Poland the same year. In 2007 the President Lech Kaczsnky decorated Biret with the highest order of Poland (Krzyzem Kawalerskim Ordera Zaslugi) for her contribution to Polish culture through her recordings and performances of Chopin’s music. The Idil Biret Archive (IBA) label is now issuing her old and new recordings which are being distributed worldwide by Naxos on CD and digitally. More than 50 CDs have so far been released which include Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas, 5 Concertos, 9 Symphony transcriptions by Liszt (in a box set of 19 CDs), the many LPs she made for Decca, Vega, EMI and Atlantic records in France, Germany and USA as well as recently recorded concertos of Grieg, Liszt, Ravel, Saint-Säens, Schumann and Tchaikovsky. Her new recording of all the 5 piano concertos of Hindemith with the Yale Symphony Orchestra was released worldwide by Naxos in October 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his passing away. All the 100 plus recordings Idil Biret made since 1959 will be released in a single set containing ten boxes (Idil Biret 100 Edition) towards the end of 2015 .

In 2014 among the activities are concerts in Warsaw in August, at the UNESCO Assembly Hall in Paris in October and the Brahms 1st Concerto performance in London in November. She will also be recording the Scriabin Etudes Op. 2, 8 and 42, the Schumann Quintet with the Borusan Quartet, the two Brahms Cello Sonatas with Roderic von Bennigsen and begin a series Mozart concerto recordings with the London Mozart Players in December.