10 September, 2015

Concert Review - Nelson Freire Recital

Image result for nelson freireConcert Review - Nelson Freire Recital

Sept 8, 2015, CCCH
Nelson Freire Recital

Although I had known Nelson Freire from his early Columbia recordings (now on Sony), somehow he slipped off my radar until a few years ago, when his Decca recordings, many available from the library, started to catch my attention again. All of them revealed greatness: rock-solid technique, golden tone and interpretive integrity. My considerable expectation for this concert was amply fulfilled.

Freire sat very still, almost frozen, for the entire concert. No theatrical movements, no agitated nor agonizing looks, yet what incredible sound came out of the piano! Sound that enriches, comforts, soothes and heals. A characteristic of Freire is that he never artificially highlights any melody or moment; everything is in its place, part of a balanced whole.

Mozart's Sonata No. 11, K331, received an unusually operatic performance, appropriately so as it stems from the same time as the Abduction of the Seraglio.  One could mistake a few coquettish moments for Scarlatti. This is certainly not a performance where one keeps looking forward to the ending, the Turkish Rondo; instead one revels in every moment, in all its splendor.

Beethoven's Sonata No. 32, Op. 111 was perfectly judged. Many pianists produce/adopt a rather lean and barren tone in trying to convey the rarefied atmosphere. Not so Freire, whose tone remained bronzed and burnished throughout in a performance of great concentration and power.

Excerpts from Prokofiev's Visions Fugitives and Granados' The Maiden and The Nightingale (from Goyescas) were atmospherically played, perfect appetizers for the Chopin to come.

In my concert going experience, the popular Bacarolle is not an easy piece to carry off. Freire is among the few who managed to do so, by keeping a steady pulse and exemplary balance. The same can be said about the elusive Mazurkas; Freire offered two (Op. 17/4; Op. 56/2), both beautifully captured as few can (another master is Fou Ts'ong). The Ballade No. 4 was steady and strong, though here I'd prefer a little more fire.

But the encores of transcriptions proved even more revelatory. After its soft opening, the Bach/Siloti Prelude in G minor rang out in awesome organ-like sonority - what majesty! Then came a richly toned Bach/Hess Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. At the end of it, tears came to my eyes. Thank you, Nelson Freire, for a most healing moment.