Artistic Quality 10 Sound Quality 9
"[This recording is] played with distinction, forethought, care, and real individuality. The tumultuous first movement is sculpted with broad, rhetorical brush strokes yet never sags under its weight. Credit Antoni Wit, who takes great care to shape and clarify the composer’s difficult-to-balance orchestration. Idil Biret channels her considerable technique toward musical ends, and admirably integrates the first movement’s taxing chains of trills, descending octave thunderbolts, and upward scale passages into the orchestral fabric. Similarly, Biret and Wit take their sweet time as they transform the slow movement into a cosmic dialogue, capped by a shattering climax. After that, the Rondo almost seems like an anticlimax, but Biret’s solid pianism and Wit’s buoyant opulence is nothing to sneeze at.Neither is the incisive, thrillingly played Schumann Introduction and Concert Allegro. Biret makes the knotty piano writing both roar and soar, recalling Rudolf Serkin’s leonine, compact traversal with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. In turn, Wit’s spirited podium work keeps the music’s diffuse form afloat, seasoned with the same highly characterized solo playing that grace this conductor’s wonderful Schumann symphonies on Naxos. A release well worth hearing."
Jed Distler - ClassicsToday.com - January 2001
"With this single-disc release, Naxos has liberated Idil Biret’s splendid performances of the Brahms First Piano Concerto and of the Schumann Introduction and Allegro to which she argues it is thematically indebted, from the 12-CD set of the complete Brahms piano music that was previously the only means of getting them. Having greeted that monumental achievement with the highest enthusiasm in 21:5 (and included it in my Want List in 22:2), I do not think I need do more here that welcome its separate availability. Biret, an interview with whom you will find elsewhere in this issue, is a pianist of true greatness, and her Brahms First stands for me among the finest versions of that work, along with relatively recent recordings by Ivan Moravec and Leif Ove Andsnes, and older ones by Arrau, Brendel, Curzon (with Van Beinum rather than Szell), Fleisher, and Weissenberg (with Muti in marginal preference to an earlier recording with Giulini). I hope a separate release of Biret’s Second Concerto will follow."
Bernard Jacobson - Fanfare - June 2001
"Schumann’s Introduction and Concert Allegro written in 1853-one of his late works-is a curious piece, somewhat like the first movement of a concerto, though with a lighter and more discreet orchestral part. Though not often performed, it is well proportioned and thoroughly enjoyable. Idil Biret’s secure and communicative performance is a most effective fill-up."
John P McKelvey - American Record Guide - June 2001
"I have spent hours going through at least ten of my favorite recordings of this concerto, and this one with Idil Biret ranks right up there with the top five...You’ll be hard-pressed to find as profoundly moving a performance of this impossible piece-or so inexpensive!-as Idil Biret’s on Naxos...When most pianists sound exhausted and drained at the conclusion of the Brahms, Biret finds new energy and splendor."
Patrick Meanor - Listener - October 2001
"The two Schumann works are fine bonuses, both rendered with the same commitment and insight from soloist and orchestra. In the end, one must assess all these performances as quite extraordinary and fully competitive with the best. Sound is good, if a bit boomy in the Brahms First. At Naxos’s prices potential buyers can hardly go wrong."
Robert Cummings - Classical.Net - September 2001
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