The final solo concert of the International Piano Festival and Competition was given by Nelson Freire last night. It was a fitting climax to a beautiful week, as the Brazilian master drew loud cheers and a standing ovation in works of Mendelssohn, Liszt, Debussy and Chopin.
Liszt's Sonata in B minor began deliberately, its protean themes and tonal transformations asserting themselves slowly and clearly. The power of the score surrounded the slow sections with melancholy simplicity only to explode in a burst of heroism. Freire's touch is bold yet never violates the integrity of the keyboard. His sound is never a loud clatter but a titan's commanding voice.
The chinoiseries of Debussy's "Pagodes" sparkled, and the other two works that constitute his "Estampes" were lavished with rich hues that belied the monochromatic soul of Debussy's musical kaleidoscope. In three works by Chopin, Freire's romantic sensibilities blended voice upon voice with persuasive clarity. The concert opened with Mendelssohn's "Variations Se'rieuses," Op. 54. Its adagio section came like a warm summer wind, followed by a serene sense of rest. If the runs occasionally ran faster than Freire's fingers, a few flaws could not hide the poetry of his playing.
Tonight at 8 the final phase of the competition will take place, as finalists Dmitry Feofanov, Daniel Lessner and Michael Lewin perform with the Festival Orchestra under the direction of maestro Hugh Wolff.