Nelson Freire: Chopin Nocturnes

From The Times:

Every concert pianist with ten fingers and thumbs should be playing Chopin this year. Already the record companies are busy marking the composer’s 200th birthday with reissues and new releases. Some companies are in direct competition; only a week separates the release of Decca’s new version of the Nocturnes, the form in which Chopin’s art is at its most poetic, and the rival account from EMI Classics. Decca’s artist is mature, verging on the veteran: the Brazilian Nelson Freire. EMI’s is the hot 27-year-old Chinese attraction Yundi Li — now known simply as Yundi after a change of management and record label.

Freire’s account, recorded in Liverpool in December, glories in a rich and full recording. We need a wide spectrum of sound to catch the variety of colours, densities and inflections conjured from his noble Steinway. “Suppleness before everything,” Chopin used to tell his students. Freire does his best to follow suit, often varying quickenings and hesitations with a magician’s touch. The magic proves especially useful in the slighter Nocturnes, such as Op 31 No 1 in B, where Freire’s lingering over decorative phrases significantly increases the music’s colour. Elsewhere, look out for some electrifying silver filigree (Op 27 No 2), lengthy reverberations on final notes and a level of poetic enchantment that might be a tad below true glory but still takes this music of sweet dreams and agitated melancholy through the night to victory.



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