The Brazilian pianist, Nelson (José) Freire [actually: Pinto Freire], began playing the piano when he was 3 years old, amazing everyone around him by replaying from memory pieces his elder sister had just performed. His teachers in Brazil were Nise Obino and Lucia Branco, who had studied with a pupil of Franz Liszt. For his first public recital at the age of 5, Freire chose W.A. Mozart's Sonata in A major, K. 331. In 1957, Freire's performance of L.v. Beethovenís Piano Concerto No. 5, at the age of 12, was awarded 7th place at the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition by a jury which included Marguerite Long, Guiomar Novães and Lili Kraus. Following the competition, he left for Vienna to study with Bruno Seidlhofer (who also taught Friedrich Gulda). In 1964, Freire won first prize at the Vianna da Motta International Piano Competition in Lisbon, as well as receiving the Lipatti Medal and the Harriet Cohen Medal in London.
Nelson Freire began his international career in 1959 with recitals and concerts in the major cities of Europe. After making a major tour of Europe in 1968, he made his USA debut in New York in 1969. He subsequently appeared in all major music centres USA, Central and South America, Japan and Israel, winning particular praise for his refulgent performances of the Romantic repertoire. He has worked and toured with many of today's leading conductors, including Pierre Boulez, Eugen Jochum, Lorin Maazel, Charles Dutoit, Kurt Masur, André Previn, David Zinman, Vaclav Neumann, Valery Gergiev, Rudolf Kempe, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Hans Graf, Hugh Wolff, Roberto Carnevale, John Nelson, Seiji Ozawa and Riccardo Chailly. He has made guest appearances with many leading orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Münchner Philharmoniker, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Wiener Symphoniker, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sao Paulo State Symphony, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, and in North America: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Chorus, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the leading orchestras of Baltimore and Montreal.
In Warsaw in 1999, Nelson Freire scored a genuine triumph with his interpretation of Frédéric Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2, marking the 150th anniversary of the composerís death. In December 2001, he chaired the jury for the Marguerite Long Competition in Paris. He has recently given performances at New York's Carnegie Hall, with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra in St. Petersburg, at the Prague Spring, with the Orchestre National de France and leading orchestras in Baltimore, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Montreal, New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Utah Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared with the English Chamber Orchestra (in France and Portugal) and the Orchestre de la Radio Suisse Italienne, and given recitals in Brussels, Paris, Rome, Munich, Lisbon, Luxembourg and Zürich. In 2002-2003 he made two concert tours under the direction of Riccardo Chailly, with the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi. He will also appear with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich and the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo, and fulfilled engagements in Brazil.
Nelson Freire has recorded for Sony/CBS, Teldec, Philips and Deutsche Grammophon. He has recorded Franz Liszt's piano concertos with the Dresdner Philharmonic under Michel Plasson for Berlin Classics. Another notable performance, which was put onto a DVD, was a recording of four-hand and two-pianos performance with Martha Argerich playing, among others, the two piano version of Ravel's La Valse. His recording of F. Chopin's 24 preludes received an Edison Award. He has recently signed an exclusive contract with Decca, the first result of which are recordings devoted to the works of F. Chopin, which have been greeted with critical acclaim, receiving the Diapason d'Or, a "Choc" award from Monde de la Musique, as well as being rated a "10" by Répertoire magazine and "recommended" by Classica. The recordings comprise, in 2 CDs, the 24 piano études and the 2nd and 3rd piano sonatas, as well as the Barcarolle Op. 60. Subsequent recordings include a 2-CD set of the Johannes Brahms piano concertos with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under Riccardo Chailly and a CD devoted to L.v. Beethoven sonatas, also on Decca.