Sixteen ensembles will battle it out in Melbourne this July. We take a look at what’s in store for competitors and audiences at one of the world’s great chamber music launching pads.
“I am very happy to come back,” pianist Nelson Freire tells me over the phone from his home in Brazil. Long revered as a connoisseur’s pianist, Freire returns to Australia in March for concerts with the Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras. This will be the fourth time Freire has toured Down Under, with his most recent appearance in 2014. “At 71, Freire seems to be in something of a golden age,” Limelight’s then Editor Clive Paget wrote when last Freire was in Sydney, while critic Greg Keane praised his “charm, wit and spontaneity”. Nelson Freire. Photo © Decca/Benjamin Ealovega But before those performances it had been 20 years since Australian audiences had heard the pianist in anything other than recordings, Freire’s previous tour dating back to the century before. “So I think now we are trying to catch up,” the 73-year-old tells me. “I’m not the age to wait so long any more!” With the Australian tour spanning four cities – in addition to the engagements with the orchestras, Freire will be playing solo recitals in Melbourne and Brisbane – Freire is also looking forward to spending a bit of time in a single country (before Australia he hits