Nelson Freire was one of the piano’s true greats. Born in 1944 in Boa Esperança, Brazil, Freire gave his first public recital at the age of five. From there, nothing seemed to stop him. Major competition prizes and studies with legendary teachers shaped him into a thoughtful musician possessing a rare sensitivity and a dynamic range envied by his fellow pianists. In this recording celebrating 70 years on the concert stage, Freire paid homage to some of the most renowned pianists of the early 20th century, including fellow Brazilian Guiomar Novaes, the extraordinary virtuoso Leopold Godowsky, and the magisterial Arthur Rubinstein. But he also took us back in time to his childhood, and pieces that captivated the young Nelson and sent him on his way. Before his death in November 2021, he guided us through the works he chose to play. Orfeo ed Euridice, Wq 30 Melodie (Arr. Sgambati) By Christoph Willibald Gluck “If there’s one piece that feels totally magic, it’s this one. I’ve played it many, many times as an encore; these days, it almost seems to play itself. It used to be very popular on the concert stage: The great Brazilian pianist Guiomar Novaes used to perform it—as did Rachmaninoff. And then it was forgotten. Nowadays, more young people are discovering it.” Hornpipe in E Minor, Z.T685 By Henry Purcell “I also got to know this hornpipe through Guiomar Novaes. She played it as an encore at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1967. I was there. She wanted to make some sort of gesture for England, so she played this charming, simple piece by Henry Purcell. Audiences love it.” Sonata in D Minor, K. 64, and Sonata in B Minor, K. 377 By Domenico Scarlatti “I included these two sonatas because I wanted to pay homage to my past, not just to historic pianists. I played both of these in recitals when I was very young—when I was around 10. And so I felt it was important to include them here.” Aspirations, Op. 39: 1. Vers l’azur By Zygmunt Stojowski “I encountered Stojowski, again, through Novaes. When she arrived in New York in the first half of the 20th century, she wanted to study with the great pianist Paderewski, but because he was traveling so much, he suggested Stojowski instead. When Novaes died, I was given many of her scores, and one of them was Stojowski’s ‘Vers l’azur.’ He’s a forgotten composer now, but this little piece is very beautiful.” Miscellanea, Op. 16: 4. Nocturne in B-Flat Major By Ignacy Jan Paderewski “Paderewski’s nocturne is a beautiful, soft little piece. For years, it was completely forgotten, but I think people are now beginning to play it more. This is another of my homages to Guiomar Novaes, who recorded the piece in the 1920s. I’ve got it at home—it’s a wonderful recording.” 6 Lieder, Op. 17, TrV 149: 2. Ständchen (Arr. Godowsky) By Richard Strauss “There’s a 1957 recording of Novaes playing this—it’s one of her best, and what she does with it really is a work of art. It’s clear why she was regarded as part of a golden age of pianists. Godowsky’s arrangement of Richard Strauss’s ‘Ständchen’ is wonderful.” Lyric Pieces By Edvard Grieg “I like to play the Lyric Pieces whenever I’m at the piano, although I’ve not played many of them in public yet. I love them so much—they’re so unpretentious and so inspiring, and so full of character and inspiration. I first fell in love with Grieg’s piano pieces after hearing the great pianist Walter Gieseking play them.” Melody in F, Op. 3, No. 1 By Anton Rubinstein “I know Rubinstein’s ‘Melody’ thanks to a recording by Josef Hofmann. It’s a very popular melody—even those who don’t go to concerts will perhaps know it. It’s a lovely piece. Hofmann’s pupil Shura Cherkassky has made a wonderful recording of it, too.” 2 Poèmes, Op. 32: 1. Poème in F-Sharp Major By Alexander Scriabin “Scriabin’s ‘Poème’ is my modest homage to pianist Vladimir Horowitz. It’s a very sensual piece, with a lot of character. I adore it.” 13 Preludes, Op. 32 By Sergei Rachmaninoff “I played both of these preludes in a concert in Rio de Janeiro when I was young. I find that as I get older, I get closer to my early years. It almost seems as though the past life is tricking you.” 3 Fantastic Dances, Op. 5 By Dmitri Shostakovich “I had very good teacher in Brazil who always wanted me to play different styles of music. I played these three pieces when I was seven, I think, in my first recital in Rio, alongside Mozart and Chopin. The Shostakovich was quite modern for me at that time! A friend of mine heard me play it recently and said, ‘You play it like a child.’ That’s because it's a piece that belongs to my very early childhood.” Goyescas - Suite: 4. Quejas ó la maja y el ruiseñor By Enrique Granados “Rubinstein used to play this piece a lot. It’s a piece my teacher gave to me when I went to Vienna. She wrote a dedication on the score: ‘Nelson, this piece was written for you.’ And that was a constant reminder that I had to play it. That's why it’s on this recording.” Scènes d’enfants: 5. Jeunes filles au jardin By Federico Mompou “My teacher back in Brazil, Nise Obino, used to play this, and of course I wanted to play all the pieces that she played. In 1959, Mompou was in Brazil and I asked him to autograph my score. He told me that he had composed so many pieces, but that people only knew this one!” España, Op. 165: Tango in D Major (Arr. Godowsky) and Navarra (Compl. Sévérac) By Isaac Albéniz “Novaes recorded the tango in the 1920s and I loved it when I heard it, and I now play it quite often as an encore. The Godowsky transcription is sophisticated but also very beautiful. It’s one of his best. ‘Navarra’ was one of Rubinstein’s war horses—I started playing it when I was 13. I don’t play it often as an encore, but I remember in Paris I performed de Falla’s ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain,’ and because it ends so quietly, I had to play something else. So ‘Navarra’ became part of my encore repertoire!”

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