- Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 2/1
- Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2/2
- Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49/1
- Piano Sonata No. 20 in G major, Op. 49/2
Turkish pianist Idil Biret has embarked on a Beethoven cycle (sonatas, concertos, and symphony transcriptions) to round off her prolific recording career, with numerous small pleasures among the results. They are of the quiet kind. It was said that Beethoven broke many of the pianos he played as a young virtuoso recently arrived in Vienna, but it would be hard to imagine Biret breaking an instrument or even a string. Movements with a lot of forward momentum, such as the finale of the "Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 2/1," presented here, are taken in a very deliberate way. This said, her readings are thought out to a deep level of detail, and, though shaped by those of her mentors Kempff and Cortot, create an entirely distinctive effect. Biret keeps close control over texture, with lots of attention to details in the left hand, and her basic orientation is toward melody and lyricism. The result in these early sonatas is a relaxed feel that brings the music close to Schubert's piano sonatas, written when he was the same age as Beethoven was when he composed these works. Despite the abundance of subtle motivic connections in her playing, Biret never becomes intellectual in her approach, with the opening movement of the "Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2/1," turning into a delightful chase of the hands around the keyboard. There is often a sprightly, even playful spirit in her performances. In the "Piano Sonata No. 2," which has a sizable development section in the opening movement, her thinking is a bit hard to understand. The slow movements of both the first two sonatas, however, which sink many performances of these works, are lovely in Biret's hands. They begin circumspectly (a trait of Biret's playing in general) and take some patience to get into, but the listener is rewarded by glistening, hypnotic halls of sound as they develop. In all, this disc inaugurates a major statement from a pianist who represents some of the most thoughtful traditions of twentieth century Beethoven playing.