- Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
- Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major ("Emperor"), Op. 73
Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 (Emperor)," was the first piece Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire played in public, at the age of 12. He returned to it in 2014, at the beginning of a new Beethoven cycle, and the results are quite attractive. His reading avoids the gigantism and formal flourish implicit in most performances of the "Emperor," but it's not an anti-heroic interpretation. Instead, Freire steps back slightly and allows greater articulation of the piano's sweeping phrases in the opening movement. Such an approach fits well with the finale, whose dance-like qualities are thus permitted to emerge, and it also allows Freire to display his considerable lyrical gifts along the way. The program seems an odd coupling: a concerto and a sonata, one of Beethoven's most public works joined to one of his most inward. But in Freire's reading the pairing works well. The "Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111," as transcendent as it is, can also be read as a virtuoso work of Beethoven's unique kind, where all the virtuoso passagework contains secrets of its own, and here it serves the function of ringing the curtain down with luminous peace after the mighty concerto. A worthy, slightly unorthodox pair of performances from an underappreciated veteran of the piano.