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 great musicians. Whether playing the great warhorses of the repertoire or the gentlest miniatures, he brings to his performances a level of quiet thoughtfulness that puts him in a class of his own.
Born in Boa Esperança, Brazil, he began piano lessons at the 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 won the Dinu Lipatti Medal in London and first prize at the International Vianna da Motta Competition in Lisbon.
Since his international 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 Argerich, with whom he shares a long-time musical collaboration and friendship. They have recorded several discs together, including a live recital from the Salzburg Festival.
“This, Nelson Freire's first disc devoted to Bach, is predictably personal. It speaks of a long acquaintance with the works on offer and you only need to sample the Fourth Partita's Sarabande to hear how lovingly he caresses the music, giving it a raptness that rivals Perahia” (Gramophone)
. . . a superb overview of Bach's works played on the piano, from towering original works such as the Fourth Partita or the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, through to a selection of transcriptions. In lyrical mood, as in his version of Myra Hess's arrangement of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", Freire's Bach is soft, flowing and atmospheric; elsewhere, especially in the Chromatic Fantasy, his fingerwork is dazzlingly fast, accurate and pin-sharp in its attack. (Paul Drive, Classic FM)