The Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire is one of the best-kept
secrets of recent years. In a world where pianists come and
go on the breeze, players of the calibre of Freire are as rare
as hens’ teeth. His tone is a thing of purest beauty and it
s expertly captured here by the Decca team of Christopher Pope
and Dominic Fyfe. More, his playing has a gravitas – a knowingness
– that informs every single note. His coupling of the Brahms
Concertos with Chailly, Decca 475 7637, reveals this also.
stems from an inner core of steel, yet his fingers are capable
of myriad variations of touch - not one, incidentally, inappropriate
for Beethoven. Accents bite without stabbing and over it all
lies Freire's intense awareness of large-scale harmonic movement.
Nowhere is this better revealed than in the first sonata we
hear, the Waldstein. Even the slow movement's meanderings
never sound aimless, just místy before the clarity of the
wafting beauty of the opening of the finale. Freire injects
more drama than most into this finale, and ensures the coda
is not just a headlong rush. Definition is always paramount,
stemming from enviable finger-strength.
huge pathos to the vitally important Adagio of the first movement
of Les Adieux, particularly the valedictory descending
three-note, horn-call like, figure. Freire makes light of
the Allegro's technical difficulties; the only player I have
hard to match him here is Arrau, live at the Royal Festival
Hall in around 1985. The oscillating figure featured mainly
in the inner voices of the first movement buzzes with life
under Freire's intelligent fingers, while individual, unaccompanied
strands make maximum impact. The desolation of the central
Andante espressivo L'Absence' prefigures the loneliness
of late Schubert slow movements, its lines singing with a
true cantabile. The contrast with the finale is stark. This
last movement has no problems including light-hearted play,
juxtaposing that with various outbursts.
of transcendental calm and slow-burning intensity projected
by Freire seems to penetrate straight to the heart of the
first movement of Op. 110. The tension latent explodes onto
the scene in the brief (two-minute) Allegro molto. There is
no sense of technical strain whatsoever here - how many pianists
can claim that? The acres of space Freire finds in the Adagio
ma non troppo makes one hanker for more late Beethoven from
this pianist. The final fugue creeps in, imbued with a Zen-like
concentration. This is fully in the same league as Pollini
This Sonata Op.
27/2 must be up there in the top ten of the World's most recorded
music, so it needs someone special to make it sound freshly-minted.
Freire's tempo for the Adagio sostenuto is middle-of-the-road,
but his legato and subtle phrase shadings make for a mesmeric
experience. The finale, if not quite as exciting as Pollini
has made it in live performance, is nevertheless made of virtuoso
stuff and makes for an apt conclusion to a must-have disc.