Beethoven at his grandest, and then at his most searching. The ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto and the Opus 111 Piano Sonata are here linked by Nelson Freire in superb form. The Concerto receives a bracing outing, Freire benefiting from a wonderfully prepared and vividly detailed accompaniment from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly, and the recording is well-balanced, the piano not too close and with plenty to be heard from the orchestra.
It’s a dynamic performance, the first movement exuberant and energised, but with melting lyricism too distilled with a quiet inwardness that catches the senses. The result is that such ubiquitous music is refreshed and enjoys enlivened interplay. Freire’s selfless but characterful playing is especially tender in the starlit slow movement, lovingly spacious, led-off by honeyed string-playing and responded to by Freire in a way that melts the heart. By contrast, the finale has a joyous bounce, eager yet poised. Very simply, this is a marvellous account of the ‘Emperor’.
So too Opus 111, full of rhetoric, suspense, drive and deep musical consideration. Freire is a cultured musician who has searched the music without draining it of spontaneity. In the second (and last) movement, the ‘Arietta’ (a theme and variations), he keeps things on the move and is structurally inevitable while keeping intact its spiritualism and vision. In short this is a compelling reading informed by much wisdom to complete an impressive release.