When Nelson Freire was the new Arrau

When Nelson Freire was the new Arrau


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2020

Rare studio footage from 1965.

Nelson has not been heard for a year since undergoing surgery on his right arm, following a fall.


  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    He was scheduled to play at the Festival Hall in February but I don’t know what is happening now.

  • Pedro says:

    Hopefully we both will be at the Philharmonie in Paris on April 16.

  • MAURO I JOAO says:

    I am sorry to hear about it. It is deeply frustrating mostly because of his wonderful performances all his life. I saw him few times when I was living in São Paulo. Wish you fast recovery. All the best.

  • Patricia says:

    Why should any musician be the “new” anyone? Can they not just be themselves?

    • BruceB says:

      When Birgit Nilsson was asked what she thought of being called “the next Flagstad,” she replied that she was more interested in being the first Nilsson.

      I think most performers feel that way; pretty sure it’s a publicist thing: try to get people interested by calling them “the new [someone already famous];” it’s OK if they’re old or even dead, as long as they’re famous.*

      * (but not famous for the wrong reasons: it probably wouldn’t be a great idea to call a phenomenal young conductor “the next James Levine.”)

  • DrMarc says:

    Thank you for this wonderful historical reminiscence! Such mastery from a young genius. Indeed, that comfortable authority and gorgeous Arrau sound, Rubinstein’s grandness and expansive repertoire, and even dashing off some Horowitzian specialties. That was a special period with such great young talents like Kapell, Fleischer, Cliburn, etc.! Wow!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Oh, mercy me – this laughable statement is the equivalent of saying “When Beethoven was the new Mozart”.
    Nelson Freire was NEVER “the new Arrau”.
    Claudio Arrau was a genius pianist and musician, and is and was irreplaceable.
    Freire is now and always was his own man. And he is a wonderful pianist and musician who I wish nothing but the best for.

    • Basso Continuoso says:

      I was never crazy about Arrau. There are many great pianists, but that doesn’t make them great musicians.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        “I was never crazy about Arrau.”
        – Whatever.
        “There are many great pianists, but that doesn’t make them great musicians.”
        – This statement is true.

  • Jonathan Z says:

    Marvellous. There is so much to admire here. Yes the natural virtuosity (those octaves!) but also the musicianship, the restraint, his stillness at the keyboard and the way not a muscle in his face moves. I think they were taught that way back then.

  • microview says:

    Thanks for upload. Not in the least like Arrau to my ears!

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    A shame and hope he has a speedy recovery. A wonderful musician.

  • J Barcelo says:

    I still remember the excitement when his recording of the Tchaikovsky concerto with Kempe came out almost 50 years ago – “a cockeyed sensation” was the quote on the LP. Then he seemed to disappear. Still one of my favorite recordings.