Nelson Freire : Encores Review
The excellent virtuoso pianist Nelson Freire celebrated his 75th birthday in 2019. To commemorate this event, Decca Classics is releasing an album titled Encores. With a musical repertoire that spans seventy years as a professional pianist, Freire has a wealth of material to choose from that he has mastered over his long career. The program is thirty tracks spanning over an hour and fifteen minutes, presenting well-known compositions, light fair, technical masterpieces, and rare gems. Twelve of the selections come from Evard Grieg’s Lyric Pieces with the other selections coming from Sgambati, Purcell, Scarlatti, Stojowski, Paderewski, Godowsky, Rubinstein, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Shostakovich, and Granados. The recording was captured at Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg. The sound quality is good, except for the emphases on the upper register of the piano, which does come into play on certain pieces. Freire is in top form and plays with passion and sublime touch.
Scarlatti’s “Sonata in D Minor, K. 64” has an entrancing display of subtlety and authority of technique by Freire. The playfulness of the melody is maintained as he builds the phrases and sections with dynamics and an elegant gate. Freire’s choice of material is based on musical qualities and not virtuosic flash, which leads to a program that is balanced and memorable. Freire brings out the Spanish influence and characteristics often noticed in the composer’s sonatas, with its spirited rhythmic aspects. The jovial quality of the performance matches the music, and that is what makes for an encore to remember.
Shostakovich’s Fantastic Dances, Op. 5 are certainly highlights. The three dances were completed when Shostakovich was only 16 and are filled with wit and magnetism, which is sometimes lost in the dense sonorities and figures found in many twentieth-century composer’s works. Freire brings a truly stunning level of detail to all three selections that make for a musical statement that is only achieved after the many hours he has poured over the material. His command of melody through the piano’s register with singing phrasing is masterful.
Upon reading the title, Encore, one might think that the program would be filled with famed virtuoso piano pieces, but that is the mark of a true virtuoso, the music comes first. Freire understands and demonstrates that there is just as much technical awe in performing a beautifully played simple melody as there is in flashy keyboard gymnastics. He is a master of both, and Encore reflects that mastery and his performance of music for the sake of music. The showpieces are here, both the dazzling ones and the deceptively simple ones, all performed by a great master of touch and pianistic colors.
October 18, 2019
Decca Music Group Ltd.