Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire began his studies at the age of three with Nise Obino and Lucia Branco, who studied with a pupil of Liszt. He made his first public appearance at the age of five performing Mozart’s Sonata in A, K.331. In 1957, after winning a grant at the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition with his performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto, he went to Vienna to study with Bruno Seidlhofer, teacher of Friedrich Gulda. Seven years later, he won the Dinu Lipatti Medal in London and first prize at the International Vianna da Motta Competition in Lisbon. His international career began in 1959 with performances in Europe, the United States, South America, Israel, and Japan.
He has collaborated with distinguished conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Valery Gergiev, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Riccardo Chailly, Lionel Bringuier, Charles Dutoit, Myung-Whun Chung, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Eugen Jochum, Fabio Luisi, Ingo Metzmacher, Rudolf Kempe (tours in the United States and Germany with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), Václav Neumann, Tugan Sokhiev, Yuri Temirkanov, and Ilan Volkov.
Freire regularly performs with such prestigious orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich Philharmonic, Bayerische Rundfunk, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Danish Radio Symphony, Mariinsky Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich, Vienna Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, London Symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony, BBC Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Seoul Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. In North America, he has performed with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics; the Boston, Chicago, and Montreal Symphonies; and the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras. He has toured toured Japan, Brazil, Argentina, and the United States with Martha Argerich.
Recent highlights include concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, and the Mariinsky Theatre; in Valencia and Prague with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev (Beethoven 5 and Brahms 2), Orchestra de la Scala Milano with Gergiev (Brahms 2), and Rotterdam Philharmonic with James Conlon (Brahms 2); as well as recitals in the Paris Philharmonie, Lyon, and Gstaad Festival; and tours of Australia, China, and the United States.
As an exclusive Decca Artist, Freire has released recordings of Chopin, Schumann and Brahms Concertos 1 and 2 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus under Riccardo Chailly, Beethoven sonatas, Debussy preludes, Chopin nocturnes, Liszt solo pieces and “Brazileiro” with Brazilian composers, and Live from Salzburg with Martha Argerich. His recording of Chopin’s nocturnes received numerous recording prizes including the Diapason d’Or de l’Année, Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros, Choc du Monde de la Musique, and a “10” rating by Repertoire magazine. Nelson Freire has recorded for Sony/CBS, Teldec, Deutsche Grammophon, IPAM, and London labels. Philips released his most coveted performances on their acclaimed series, Great Pianists of the 20th Century and his Chopin’s 24 Préludes recording on CBS received the Edison Award in the Netherlands. The portrait Nelson Freire is available on Video Film (Brazil).
In 2006 and 2010, his Chopin recordings were nominated for GRAMMY Awards for “Best Instrumental Soloist Performance.” His recording of Brahms Concertos with Riccardo Chailly was nominated for a 2007 GRAMMY and named “Record of the Year” and “Winner of the Concerto Category” by Classic FM Gramophone Awards 2007. His CD Brasileiro: Villa-Lobos & Friends received the 2013 Latin GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Album. His Bach recital recording won the prestigious Echo Prize as the best solo recording of the year in 2016 and his latest CD, released in September 2017, is dedicated exclusively to Brahms.
Nelson Freire was nominated “Soloist of the Year” in 2003 by the French Victoires de la Musique; in 2005 he received their special “Honours Award” in recognition of his remarkable career. In 2007, Freire was appointed a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French government and in 2011 he was made a Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion de’Honneur, the French government’s highest award to a foreigner.