Legendary pianist İdil Biret to celebrate 75th birthday with London concert this Saturday

Today is the 75th birthday of renowned international pianist İdil Biret. To celebrate, on Saturday this inspirational Ankara-born soloist returns to the city where she first performed aged 18.

The setting for this weekend’s concert is the stunning St Sepulchre’s – a seventeenth century church in the City of London famed for its classical music concerts. The Whitehall Orchestra will accompany Biret with Michael Nebe – the orchestra’s long-standing music director – conducting.

The concert programme is as follows:

  1. Polovtsian Dances, from Prince Igor – Alexander Borodin
  2. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op 43 – Sergey Rachmaninov
  3. Symphonic Dances Op 45 – Sergey Rachmaninov

Michael Nebe and the Whitehall Orchestra have previously collaborated with Biret. In 2009, they performed together in the historic Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, to critical acclaim.

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s concert, which you can buy online. Alternatively, a few tickets will also be available on the door.


Who is İdil Biret?

This living legend made her debut as a concert pianist aged 16. Since then, İdil Biret has performed in leading venues all over the world alongside the most distinguished orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Leningrad Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Tokyo Philharmonic, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de France and the Sydney Symphony.

Born in Ankara on 21 November 1941, İdil learnt to play the piano very young, taking lessons from Mithat Fenmen from the age of five. Extraordinarily talented, her family decided to take advantage of a newly passed law in Turkey to obtain a grant so their daughter could study abroad. As a result, İdil and her family moved to France where she studied at the Paris Conservatory under the tutelage of Nadia Boulange.

During her long career, İdil has collaborated with eminent conductors such as Hermann Scherchen, Pierre Monteux, Erich Leinsdorf, Rudolf Kempe, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Aaron Copland, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Mackerras, Jean Fournet, José Serebrier, Moshe Atzmon, Antoni Wit and Hiroyuki Iwaki. She has also recorded over fifty concertos including all the piano concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Ravel and Tchaikovsky.


She gave her first UK concert in 1960, performing the Mozart Concerto K.467 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. Since then, she has returned to Britain many times giving concerts and recitals in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh and other cities, performing with the country’s leading orchestras under the batons of distinguished conductors.

Among her most memorable UK performances are the Rachmaninov 3rd with the London Symphony conducted by Pierre Monteux, the Prokofiev 3rd again with the London Symphony conducted by Rozhdestvensky, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra the Tippett Concerto under the baton of Sir John Pritchard, Hindemith and Mozart concertos with the Halle Orchestra conducted by Nadia Boulanger, and the Tchaikovsky 2nd with the BBC Orchestra in Manchester.

In London, Biret performed at the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elisabeth Hall, Wigmore Hall, Barbican Hall, and more recently at the St. John’s Smith Sq. Hall with the Whitehall Orchestra conducted by Michael Nebe. She has also given many recitals for the Chopin Society at different venues.


She made her first-ever orchestral recording in 1988 with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, after a concert at the Barbican Hall, recording the 2nd and 4th Concertos of Saint-Saens.

Her incredible career and contribution to culture has been recognised through varied awards. Biret has been bestowed with the honorary title of State Artist since 1971 by the Turkish government.

In 1995, Biret’s recordings of Chopin’s entire oeuvre were awarded the Grand Prix du Disque Frédéric Chopin in Poland. The same year, she won the Diapason d’Or prize in France for her recording of Boulez’s sonatas, which was selected as among the best recordings of the year by French daily national Le Monde.

Biret has also been awarded: the Lily Boulanger Memorial Prize in Boston (USA), the Harriet Cohen/Dinu Lipatti Gold Medal in London (UK), the Polish Prize for Artistic Merits, the National Knight Merit Order of France, and the Adelaide Ristori Prize, Italy.

In 2007 she was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order – Cavalry Cross by the Polish President Lech Kaczynski for her contributions to Polish culture through her recordings and performances of Chopin’s music.

She is admired as much for professional and personal integrity as for her musical talents. Her age has not lessened her desire to perform at the highest levels and throughout 2016 she has continued to tour Turkey and abroad, playing the world’s leading venues.


Her more than 100 albums are available on Naxos – the world’s largest classical music label.

Concert details

Title: Idil Biret’s 75th birthday in London

Date: Saturday 26 November 2016

Concert starts: 7.30pm

Venue address:  St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, Holborn Viaduct (junction of Holborn Viaduct and Giltspur Street), London EC1A 2DQ

Admission: £11/£9.90 concessions including booking fee in advance, or £12 on the door

Advance tickets: wegottickets.com/WhitehallOrch

About İdil Biret: idilbiret.eu