Nelson Freire has long been seen as a connoisseur’s pianist, but a series of superb recordings have raised his profile to the extent that he is now thought of as one of today’s universally recognised freat musicians. Whether playing the great warhorses of the repertoire or the gentlest miniatures, he brings to his performances a level of quiet thoughfulness that puts him in a class of his own.
Born in Boa Esperança, Brazil, he began piano lessons at age of three with Nise Obino and Lucia Branco, who had worked with a pupil of Liszt. He made his first public appearance at the age of five playing Mozart’s Sonata K. 331. In 1957, after winning a grant at the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition with Beethoven’s Emperor concerto, he went to Vienna to study with Bruno Seidlhofer, teacher of Friedrich Gulda. Seven years later he on the Ddinu Lipatti Medal in London and first prize at the international Vianna da Motta Competition in Lisbon.
Since hisinternational career began in 1959, Freire has appeared at virtually every important musical centre, in recital and working with countless distinguished conductors and orchestras. A great musical collaborator, he has toured extensively with Martha Agerich, with whom he shares a long-time musical collaboration and friendship.
In October 2014 he celebrated his 70th birthday with the first release in a Beethoven concerto cycle with Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, coupling the Emperor concerto with the Sonata Op. 111. It was followed by a recording of the Chopin F minor concerto with the Gurzenich Orchestra Köln under Lionel Bringuier, prompting BBc Music Magazine to say: “… it would be a rare connoisseur not to recognise a major master in the lyrical, rhythmically bouyant, spiritually abundandt playing here.“