0 of 5 stars

Préludes – Book I
D’un cahier d’esquisses
Children’s Corner
Suite bergamasque – Clair de lune

Nelson Freire (piano)

Recorded 11-15 June 2008, Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Harburg, Hamburg

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: February 2009
CD No: DECCA 478 1111
Duration: 63 minutes



Beautifully recorded, the first of the Préludes displays both Nelson Freire’s concentration and a slight tendency to be pedantic. But any fantasy and fluidité that one might feel is lacking in ‘Danseuses de Delphes (despite the exquisitely balanced chord with which it ends) is scarcely repeated as the cycle progress; indeed this develops into an altogether special traversal, magically played, Freire’s transcendental technique always at the service of the music, his response innate, impressionistic and exactingly gauged.

Not that it is all the washes of sound that ‘Voiles’ (Prélude No.2) requires, and receives, for ‘Le Vent dans la plaine’ (3) is clinical and dynamically etched and ‘Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest’ (7) is as tempestuous and biting as one could want. Yet those numbers calling for fantasy and suggestion are not found wanting, nor is there lack of tenderness in ‘La Fille aux cheveux de lin’ (8) or subterranean grandeur in ‘La Cathédrale engloutie’ (10).

The remaining works are scarcely less fine. Children’s Corner is kept on the move, but not with strictness; rather the movements flows with a gentle sensibility and suggests ‘somewhere else’ (the faster outer ones subtly brought off, not least Golliwogg’s Cake-Walk, which is gratefully given without exaggeration).

Olivier Bellamy’s booklet note concentrates on Freire’s relationship with Debussy’s music – “no other performer today can do such justice to the beautiful sounds and wealth of harmonies of this music”, a comment that does seem rather disregarding of Bavouzet, Planès and Rogé (to name three rivals that come instantly to mind). Certainly Freire is a wonderful pianist who undoubtedly can stake a claim as a significant performer of Debussy. A shame though that he didn’t record the whole of Suite bergamasque (there’s more than enough room for it) rather than the obvious excerpt (however unaffected and luminous this account is).

Nevertheless this recital should certainly be heading for the collections of all those who love this music and prize discriminating (and tantalisingly elusive) music-making.

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