A native of Brazil, Nelson Freire began piano studies at age three with Nise Obino and Lucia Branco, and he made his first public appearance at age five. In 1957, after winning the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition, he was presented with a financial scholarship from the president of Brazil, enabling him to study with Bruno Seidlhofer in Vienna. Seven years later, he won the Dinu Lipatti Medal in London and first prize at the International Vianna da Motta Competition in Lisbon. Mr. Freire’s international career began in 1959 with recitals and concerts in Europe, the United States, South and Central America, Japan, and Israel. Performing this week for the first time with the San Francisco Symphony, he made his debut under SFS auspices in 2005, in duo recital with pianist Martha Argerich. He appeared here most recently in November 2007, as soloist in the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic.
Mr. Freire has been a frequent guest with major orchestras throughout the world, including the Berlin and Munich philharmonics, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra of Zurich, Vienna Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de Paris, Israel Philharmonic, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and the Royal Philharmonic, as well as the orchestras of Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, and Philadelphia. In 1999, he marked the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s death with a performance of the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in Warsaw. Last season, he returned to the Boston Symphony and made his debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York. His current season includes performances in Montreal and Washington DC.
Nelson Freire has recorded for Sony BMG Masterworks, Teldec, Deutsche Grammophon, and IPAM. His recording of the Chopin Préludes received the Edison Prize; other recordings have won awards including the Diapason d’Or, Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros, and Choc du Monde de la Musique. In 2001 Mr. Freire signed an exclusive recording contract with Decca. His 2005 recording on that label of Chopin’s Études (Opus 10), Barcarolle (Opus 60), and Sonata No. 2, as well as his 2006 recording of the Brahms piano concertos with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly, both received Grammy® nominations for Best Instrumental Soloist. In 2011, his recording of Chopin’s nocturnes was also nominated. Mr. Freire is recipient of the French Victoires de la Musique 2002 Soloist of the Year award, as well as a special honorary award for lifetime achievement, which he received in 2005.