Chopin: Nocturnes/Freire

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Intimacy, lyricism, and subtle textural diversity characterize Nelson Freire’s Chopin Nocturnes, as opposed to Ashkenazy’s stronger dynamic projection, Arrau’s searching rhetoric, or Moravec’s darkly-lit corners. The pianist’s approach has mellowed and refined since he first recorded a selection of these works in the early 1970s for Telefunken. There are illuminating details to savor, and many more to discover on repeated hearings.

Freire’s unorthodox slowing down of the F-sharp Op. 15 No. 2 coda is justified by the pianist’s strong left-hand underpinning, while he manages to impart poetry in Op. 27 No. 2’s rapid passagework in strict tempo. His sophisticated accentuation throughout Op. 15 No. 3 and Op. 55 No. 2 allows the phrases to soar in long melodic sentences liberated from barlines. Notice also how Freire’s animated treatment of Op. 62 No. 1 still allows room for underlining harmonic surprises and for the long trills to materialize with the utmost control, evenness, and beauty.

Op. 37 No. 2’s double notes gorgeously ring out, while an implied contrapuntal line emerges from the top of Op. 55 No. 1’s left-hand chords. And speaking of left-hand chords, Freire is not averse to rolling them, but he does so with discretion and good taste (the famous Op. 9 No. 2, for example).

Decca’s warm, well-balanced engineering perfectly suits Freire’s interpretations, and the label’s two-for-one price may be enticement enough for some music lovers. Even if you already own a Nocturnes cycle, try to spend some quality time with Freire. [4/13/2010]

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Moravec (Nonesuch), Arrau (Philips), This one

FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN - 20 Nocturnes

  • Nelson Freire (piano)

Share This Review: