City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
September 26, 2016

“I’m not very talkative. And I don’t like to speak about myself. I find it a little boring.” So says Nelson Freire in an intriguing programme interview. “I don’t know if I’m always saying what I want to say. Sometimes I’m asked something that I don’t think about, and I have to invent an answer. And later, I’m not happy with it.”

I’ll let that paragraph stand for introduction to one of the least demonstrative pianists on the international circuit. It has been 20 years since the Brazilian last played in Sydney, and you can see he was hardly going to light up City Recital Hall with scintillating banter. However, let the music do the talking and an hour and a half with Freire feels like a very congenial conversation indeed.

His recital began with a series of Bach transcriptions. The first, Siloti’s reworking of a G Minor Organ Prelude, proved an ideal opener. Reflective bordering on the meditative, its sombre beginnings leading into a more dynamic toccata saw Freire shifting gears from forte to piano and capturing a surprisingly organ-like timbre in the softer sections. His searching reading of Busoni’s chorale prelude Ich...