On reading music: Turkish pianist Idil Biret at International Piano Masterclass in Bayreuth

© Mine Krause

It is a more or less common experience we all remember from our school days: Teachers have the power to influence their pupils in a very positive or negative way. Their effects on us can last a lifetime. You might think back to your first Latin, Maths or piano lessons. Either you enjoyed studying or you hated it so much that even today you can still feel an ache in your stomach when this topic comes up. And it all depended on the person who taught you.

Turkish pianist Idil Biret was a student of Nadia Boulanger and of Alfred Cortot in Paris as well as a lifelong disciple of Wilhelm Kempff. From the 20th to the 22nd of October 2017, she not only performed in her role as an internationally known musician, but also proved her talent as a highly motivating and inspiring teacher during the International Festival for Piano Amateurs (Les Amateurs Virtuoses ! Festival de Piano) in Bayreuth. To people playing other instruments, listening to her masterclass also provided many useful insights.

Amateur musicians of all ages and nationalities presented their interpretations of various composers, including works by Liszt, Medtner, Arensky and Beethoven. Having listened carefully to all pieces, Idil Biret started to teach with the same passion and creative mind that is characteristic of her playing. What might strike the spectator most, is her way of encouraging everybody without making any difference between her students. “Have fun while playing” and “I know you can do it. Don’t be shy” are some of her comments that soften the competitive atmosphere right away. Studying musical scores with Idil Biret is very similar to reading a novel: She makes you discover and interpret the unique stories that are hidden in an infinite number of nuances, colours, accents and dynamic contrasts. The risks of blurring the written text by using too much pedal or being rhythmically unprecise become very clear during this piano masterclass.

© Mine Krause

Melodies tell a story just as words describe a character in a novel. The language of music is universal and can build bridges between all nations. Idil Biret illustrates that music is lived with the whole body, makes you one with your instrument and can be felt in every single bone. You can observe how such a motivating teacher can help to entirely change the interpretation of a piece by giving generous advice. During this 3 hours class, Idil Biret does not even once look at her watch. This alone is proof enough of her total devotion to playing and teaching music. The spectators become witnesses of how the wild, inner violence of Beethoven’s “Sturmsonate” builds up a dramatic tension in the room, Arensky’s and Medtner’s pieces for two pianos invite to dance and Liszt’s “Bénédiction de Dieu dans la Solitude” mirrors the restless soul of a lonely spirit. Hard work, creativity, passion, patience, precision and curiosity seem to be the ingredients you need to engage in a dialogue between your instrument, the composer and the audience.

© Mine Krause

Under Idil Biret’s fingers and instructions, music comes to life and turns into a continuously changing fairy-tale with various surprises and endings.Those who have this wonderful pianist as a teacher will never give up. Because this is exactly what Idil Biret tells you to do: Not to be shy. To dare more. To overcome your limits. To believe in yourself. And to love music with all your heart.


Bayreuth, 21/10/2017       © Mine Krause





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