Born in Boa Esperança in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, Nelson Freire is a universally acclaimed artist. He has received international honors and decorations, and regularly collaborates with the most distinguished orchestras, conductors, and recital halls worldwide.
In 1957 at twelve, a finalist at the first International Piano Competition of Rio de Janeiro, he received a grant from Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek and went to study in Vienna under Bruno Seidlhofer, teacher of Friedrich Gulda. At nineteen, Freire was awarded the Dinu Lipatti Medal in London and later won the 1st Prize at the International Vianna da Motta Competition in Lisbon.
At twenty-three for his London debut, he made a sensation when The Times called him “The young lion of the keyboard”. The following year, after his New York debut with the New York Philharmonic, Time Magazine hailed him as “One of the most exciting pianists of this or any age”.
Nelson Freire has performed with many of the world’s major conductors, such as Valery Gergiev, Yuri Temirkanov, Seiji Ozawa, Pierre Boulez, Riccardo Chailly, Charles Dutoit, Eugen Jochum, André Previn, Lorin Maazel, Rudolf Kempe, Rafael Kubelik, David Zinman, Kurt Masur and Sir Colin Davis. He has appeared with the greatest orchestras: the Philharmonics of Berlin, London (LSO, LPO, BBC), New York, Israel, and Brussels, as well with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, Orchestre Suisse Romande, and the orchestras of Munich, Paris, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg including the Mariinsky Orchestra, Vienna, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Chicago and Montreal Symphony Orchestras.
Nelson Freire has recorded for Sony/CBS, Teldec, DGG, IPAM, and London labels. Philips released his most coveted performances on their acclaimed series, Great Pianists of the 20th Century and his recording of Chopin’s 24 Préludes on CBS received the Prix Edison. He now records exclusively for DECCA, for whom he has released works by Liszt, Schumann, Chopin, Beethoven and Debussy.
For his recordings he received numerous prizes : Diapason d’Or of the Year, Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros, Choc du Monde de la Musique, 10 by Repertoire, Classica, and Grammy Awards. Nelson Freire was nominated Soloist of the Year 2002 by French Victoires de la Musique and received in January 2005 a special Honours Award for his career. His Brahms Concertos with Riccardo Chailly were announced Record of the Years and Winner of the Concerto Category by Classic FM Gramophone Awards 2007. His CD Brasileiro Villa-Lobos & Friends received a Grammy Award in 2013 as the best classical recording for South America. His Bach recital recording won the prestigious Echo Prize as the best solo recording of the year 2016 and his last CD released in September 2017 is dedicated to Brahms.
In March 2007 Freire received the title of Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2011 he became a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur – France’s most prestigious order for international citizens.
In May 2019, Nelson Freire received a price in Lucerne (Switzerland) for his lifetime career achievement.