★★★★☆

Like his South American predecessor, Jorge Bolet, Nelson Freire is having an Indian Summer and well-deserved recognition. Like Bolet, he’s always been admired but somewhat taken for granted. Now, he’s almost lionised. 

This CD contains Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto and a collection of short pieces. I recently read a fascinating but credible observation that, of major composers, Chopin has more of his oeuvre in the repertoire than any other. That notwithstanding, his works for piano and orchestra have often been considered poor relations to his solo piano music, most of which is, admittedly, sublime. Who am I to complain? 

One reviewer described the concerto orchestrations as “staid”. I would prefer wooden or dour. No matter: this is a wonderful showcase for Freire’s art, and he brings pellucid tone and ineffable elegance with a sublime reading of the slow movement. 

The G-Flat Impromptu is not so much dispatched as caressed with finesse and rubato. The Fourth Ballade is certainly sterner stuff and Freire possesses the requisite steeliness without ever sacrificing lyricism or coherence. The Berceuse, my joint favourite Chopin work, is played with a style that rivals Lipatti’s Barcarolle (my other joint favourite): I just didn’t want it to end. The Mazurkas radiate a different type of charm. The Polonaise is stylistically fine, but it sits a little awkwardly with the rest of the programme.

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