. . . exquisite playing . . . some of the finest ever transcriptions of Bach's most enticing keyboard music . . . After listening to this album you will surely wonder, as I did, why Freire has left it so late to produce his first all-Bach album. Some purists sniff at Bach on the grand piano. Hearing this, I cannot understand why.
. . . 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.
. . . you only need to sample the Fourth Partita's Sarabande to hear how lovingly he caresses the music . . . there's playfulness too, as witness the Menuet of the same work, and its Gigue has plenty of energy and exuberance . . . [Freire's Gavottes] have a delicious spring in their step and he imbues the closing Gigue with energy yet a pleasing solidity too . . . [his C minor Toccata has a vivid sense of its arching architecture married to a simplicity of utterance, the final fugue dispatched with complete inevitability . . . [again, in the "Chromatic Fantasia",] few could match Freire in the Fugue, which is rich in tints and hues . . . Whether in the quiet solemnity of Bach's own adaptation of the "Adagio" from Marcello's D minor Oboe Concerto, the tolling depths of Busoni's arrangement of "Ich ruf zu dir" or the majestic "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland", there's a rightness to everything he does. And to end, where else but the timeless Bach/Hess "Jesu, joy"? Joy indeed in Freire's hands.
. . . a perfect overview of Bach on the piano . . .
. . . [his latest recording] is a reminder of how universal an artist he is . . . [he is] highly credible because of his interpretive maturity . . . His remarkable technique is at once light and fluid . . . Equally impressive is his shift to the modern transcriptions of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" by Myra Hess and two chorales by Ferruccio Busoni . . . This is a performance of exceptional beauty.
Any recording by Freire is an event: this one especially so . . . At over 80 minutes, maximal value meets maximal quality. There is a purity to Freire's Bach, born of the deepest understanding. The two largest works, the Partita and English Suite, alternate with shorter but no less significant pieces, and both unfold as varied tapestries of emotions, impeccably drawn . . . the Chromatic Fantasy boasts a Fugue subject that enters in a miracle of subtlety . . . Freire's bright tone is perfectly captured. A release worth its weight in gold.
. . . Freire's old-school tonal glow and lyrical flow are a joy to hear. Included are an exciting "Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue", as well as beautifully played versions of Busoni's transcriptions of the almost unbearably moving chorales "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" and "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland."
Freire's pianism has always been about muscular projection, upfront clarity and expansive gesture . . . The Siloti transcription is particularly successful, the Hess elegant . . . The Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue combines brilliancy and buoyancy, Freire sending the Fugue on its way with a lyrical 3/4 spring to the beat that's initially dance-like but, then, befitting the texture and argument, progressively more intense and ferocious . . . The C-minor Toccata unfolds with a purposeful sense of form, direction and articulation . . .
What becomes almost immediately apparent in listening to this recording is the Brazilian pianist's musicianship. He clearly places this above technique, which he already has in spades. Every line is delineated and balanced in relation to the work's other voices . . . ["Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"] ultimately proves the transformative nature of Nelson Freire's art. He ends this recording by lifting this choral work out of its well-worn rut and convincing you that improved and changed, you are listening to one of the greatest compositions ever written for the piano.
Freires Bach ist insgesamt sanft und fließend, allerdings erfreulich temporeich und pedalarm. Bei den technisch anspruchsvollsten Stücken (etwa der Chromatischen Fantasie) begeistert der brasilianische Pianist mit wieselflinkem Spiel, das dennoch klar und transparent bleibt. Bei den elegischeren Stücken, etwa der "romantischen" Myra-Hess-Transkription "Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring" (eigentlich der Choral "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" aus der Kantate " Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben"), demonstriert er sein ganzes lyrisches Talent. Nelson Freire ist ein faszinierendes, musikalisch dichtes Album gelungen; keines, das den Anspruch hegt, "historisch informiert" zu sein, wohl aber eines, das einen ganz persönlichen, intimen Blick in Freires tief spirituelle Liebe zur Musik Bachs offenbart.