FREIRE - RADIO DAYS Concerto Broadcasts 1968-79 4786772

Nelson Freire is . . . one of the great pianists of our age . . . There's not a dud among them. Each bar is full of the vitality that Freire brings to everything he plays . . . Freire's fabulously clean phrasing and pearly tone are never compromised, and each concerto is special in one way or another. A few do stand out. In the Tchaikovsky, with Kurt Masur and the ORTF Philharmonic from 1969, both pianist and conductor strip away anything that is remotely hackneyed about this overfamiliar war horse, so that every texture gleams. The performance is taken in a single glorious sweep, while there's astonishing lightness and poise about the solo playing in the Liszt (with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Freire's compatriot Eleazar de Carvalho). The evenness and beauty of the scales in the slow introduction are breathtaking . . . [Rachmaninov]: Freire's account of the Third Concerto crackles with intensity . . . it's thrillingly alert to every twist and turn of the formidably challenging solo writing.

These recordings of live broadcasts dating from 1968-79 tell us in no uncertain terms of Nelson Freire's immaculate overall command, allied to a liberation granted to only the finest pianists . . . his first performance of Chopin's E minor Concerto [displays] playing of a formidable assurance. Cool and elegant in Chopin, Freire . . . offers a surprise item, his one and only performance of Schumann's Introduction and Allegro, where all awkward and unpianistic problems are resolved with ease . . . [Freire's Prokofiev First Concerto has] a haunting sense of the slow movement's achingly 'blue' idiom. Again, in Liszt's Second Concerto the nuance and colouring at, for example, 3'57" are as remarkable as Freire's final sprint to the finishing post. Finally, Rachmaninov's Third Concerto, given with all of Freire's facility and with a blast-off launch to the finale that will surprise those who think of this pianist as more sleek than impassioned . . . Decca's album is lavishly illustrated and . . . sound and balance are outstanding.

It is a rare chance to hear the younger Freire, who remains a major artist by any standard even as he ages . . . these radio broadcasts are a must for piano fans . . . [Schumann / "Introduction and Concert-Allegro"]: a fine reading that confirms the work as an excellent piece of music. Fellow countryman Eleazar de Carvalho leads a marvelous Liszt 2nd Concerto, while Yuri Ahronovitch leads a wonderful Prokofieff 1st . . . [Chopin 1]: [a] poetic reading . . . an excellent tribute to an underrated and always musical pianist.

Never was virtuosity purveyed with a lighter touch than in this 70th-birthday celebratory CD . . . What we get here is a pellucid account [of Chopin's Concerto No 1], with the passagework in the Allegro finely articulated, the Larghetto delivered with bewitching grace and the Rondo given lovely dash and swagger. What is most notable about this collection is the way Freire finds exactly the right idiom for each composer: a perfumed suggestion of the theatre for Tchaikovsky's First, elfin charm for the young Prokofiev and a quintessentially Russian nostalgia for Rachmaninov . . . The other element which makes this CD gold from start to finish is the orchestral support, with every conductor operating at his peak.

. . . [a] terrific 2-CD set of live performances . . . they are magnificent in every way -- remarkable displays combining virtuosity and musicianship. The Chopin was the frst time Friere had played the work, as sensitive a performance as you will ever hear. The Tchaikovsky is stunning, the Rachmannoff Third is olympian in scope . . . this is unquestionably one of the most exciting performances available, with a tempestuous finale always under control. Audio on all of these broadcasts is excellent and well-balanced. Decca has managed to get almost 83 minutes onto the first disk! This new release is essential in any piano collection.

From his mid-20s to mid-30s he was in stupendous form, as these wide-ranging radio broadcasts attest . . . [Freire plays the works by all of these composers] with the same high level of artistry, making everything here a must-listen . . . without a doubt Freire belongs among the most illustrious pianists of the second half of the 20th century, and beyond. These live recordings find him where he is most comfortable; Freire strongly prefers a concert setting over the studio, and you can hear why. There's added panache and spontaneity in every performance, often to a remarkable degree, as in the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 1, a work he performed only twice. He and conductor Yuri Ahronovitch achieve a high voltage reading without aggression (no banging) . . . Besides the Prokofiev, his account of the Chopin First Concerto is a knockout, as one would expect from a pianist who has devoted his professional life to the composer -- it's remarkably cultivated and imaginative. More than that, Freire makes the music emotionally moving rather than simply a vehicle for display. He performs the same magic in the Rachmaninoff Third; I've never enjoyed the piece so much. These performances fall into the special category of being so good that they don't call for detailed comment; the charisma in the playing jumps out of the speakers . . . This is an occasion where the main reason for writing a review is that one's unalloyed enjoyment might be shared by others.