Three years ago, in a very rare interview with Expresso, Nelson Freire said: “In addition to my means of expression, the piano is a way of communicating with the world. It is a lifelong companion who knows all my flaws and qualities, and I always learn from him. I have been through tragic situations, and if it were not for the music, I would not have survived.” But the music did not save him. At the age of 77, the pianist died at dawn Monday in Rio de Janeiro, at home.
Although the causes of death are not known, it is known that he fell into deep depression after a fracture in his right arm in 2019, following a fall, forcing him to undergo a complex and long surgery.
In October of that year, one of the musician’s last public performances returns to the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais in which he was born, with subsequent concerts in Girona, London, Amsterdam, Leon and Saint Petersburg cancelled. According to Folha de São Paulo, Freire will then receive a visit from Argentine pianist Martha Argerich, who was part of his close friend group. A return to the stages was planned in 2020, but due to the pandemic it has not materialized. That year, he canceled two concerts at the Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon. In August 2021, he confirmed his presence at the International Azores Festival, which was held in Faial, where his ancestors were raised. However, the trip did not take place.
It was Nelson Freire, as he is known France music, “the sacred piano monster” and one of the greatest pianists of all time. Born in Boa Esperanca in 1944, he began playing at the age of three, influenced by his older sister, and gave his first concert at the age of five. The family’s move to Rio de Janeiro allowed private lessons for great Brazilian pianists such as Nes Aubino and Licia Branco. At the age of twelve, he won the international competition in Rio de Janeiro – performance of the concerto Nº5, “Emperador” by Beethoven – and at the 19th international competition Viana de Mota, in Lisbon. At that age, when he was also awarded the Dino Lipati medal, he was already studying in Vienna and performing in European capitals under the direction of such bandleaders as Isaac Karapchevsky and Rudolf Kempe. At the age of 24, his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra cemented his international career—not by accident, after that concert, Time magazine called him “one of the greatest pianists of this and any generation.”
Throughout his life, he preferred live performances to recording studios. However, He recorded Chopin like no one else and Johannes Brahms (his reading of the piano concerto will go down in history), as well as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Liszt and Rachmaninov. In the 1980s, he was one of the few pianists selected to be part of the “Great Pianists of the Century” group, edited by Phillips.. In 2003, director Joao Moreira Salles dedicated a documentary to him, and in 2015 he was filmed in the book “Nelson Freire: The Person and the Artist” by Ricardo Fiesa.
In the Expresso interview, Nelson Freire wrote the machine, with several notes by hand—a document he later scanned for transmission. At a certain point, when asked about the most important aspects of interpretation, he replied: “Sincerity of the text, sincerity of intentions, sincerity in passion, creativity, inspiration … and the virtue of the moon!” Later, he said: “What would man be if there was no art? The artist does not deceive anyone: his profession requires strict discipline and honesty. And the audience thanks them for offering affection and admiration. “
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