His name may not register with concert-goers as quickly as some others, but Nelson Freire is easily recognized as one of the most respected pianists on the world scene. Without a hint of showiness or artificial attitude, Freire invariably brings a sterling technique and stylistic authority to the keyboard, as he did in a recital Sunday evening for the Shriver Hall Concert Series.
The pianist established at the outset, in the Siloti arrangement of Bach's G minor Organ Prelude, that the tone would be warm and richly colored all night, that the phrasing would speak eloquently.
Mozart's "Alla Turca" Sonata benefited from clarity of articulation and vivid dynamic nuances (his way of varying his touch in the repeat in the trio section of the Menuetto was especially effective). There was, too, of course, abundant charm.
To close the first half of the program, Freire turned to the Op. 119 of Brahms and brought out the character in each of the four pieces. The B minor Intermezzo, in particular, inspired playing of wonderful intimacy and subtle yearning.
The E-flat Rhapsody emerged with tremendous power and sweep, qualities that Freire also applied at the end of the recital in Chopin's well-worn A-flat Major Polonaise, which sounded quite fresh thanks to some deft shading.
Other highlights from an evening of highlights: Prismatic playing, especially at pianissimo levels, in excerpts from Prokofiev's "Visions Fugitives"; a luminous, sensual performance of "Goyescas" No. 4 by Granados; and ethereal calm in the D-flat Nocturne of Chopin, a perfect encore.
The Shriver Hall crowd wasn't quite as perfect -- lots of competitive coughing and other nuisances. Sigh.