Nelson Freire and the Baltimore Symphony in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4

Mario Venzago leads the Baltimore Symphony in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, featuring Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire (pictured) on Friday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, May 3 at 3:00 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and Saturday, May 2 at 8:00 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore. The BSO is pleased to welcome back to the podium conductor Mario Venzago, former artistic director of the BSO’s Summer Music Fest and longtime favorite of Baltimore Symphony audiences.

Beethoven’s innovative and contemplative Piano Concerto No. 4 is the centerpiece of the program. A revolutionary piece at the time of its debut in 1806, the work’s paradoxical courting of both radical and gentle statements of the theme still captivates audiences today. Appropriately, since the composer wrote the solo part for himself, the pianist is the leader in driving this movement forward. This affords legendary pianist Nelson Freire ample opportunity to demonstrate what the New York Times dubs his “insistent honesty” and interpretations that are “full of personality.”

Also on the program is the 1889 version of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3. A neophyte of Richard Wagner’s progressive “music of the future” style, Bruckner’s work earned the moniker “Wagner Symphony” for its brief allusions to Wagner’s operas, its harmonic strategies, and its massively Wagnerian use of the brass section.

Mario Venzago, conductor
Mario Venzago was born in 1948 in Zürich, Switzerland. He began playing piano at age 5, attended the conservatory and the university in Zürich and continued his studies with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna. He is in his sixth season as music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. From 2004-2007 he was principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (the National Orchestra of Sweden). He has previously held posts as music director of the Basel Symphony Orchestra (1997-2003), the Basque National Orchestra in Spain (1998-2001), the Graz Opera House in Austria (1990-1995), the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie in Frankfurt/Bremen (1989-1992), the Heidelberg Opera (1986-1989), the Winterthur City Orchestra (1978-1986) and the Lucerne Opera House. He also served as principal conductor for the broadcast recordings of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva until 1986.

A regular visitor to the world’s leading orchestras and opera houses, Mr. Venzago's distinguished conducting career has included engagements with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the BBC London, the Scala di Milano and the Boston and Philadelphia orchestras. He has also conducted, among other prestigious festivals, at the Salzburg and Lucerne festivals.

Maestro Venzago's varied discography has earned him several major awards. With the Basel Symphony he has recorded the complete symphonic works of Schumann, Ravel and Nono; with the choir and orchestra of the MDR Leipzig the whole choral works by Othmar Schoeck; and with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra all orchestral works of Alban Berg. He has collaborated with famous stage directors Ruth Berghaus, Peter Konwitschny and Hans Neuenfels.

Nelson Freire, piano
Born in Brazil, Nelson Freire began piano studies at the age of 3 and made his first public appearance at age 5 with Mozart’s Sonata in A major, K. 331. In 1957, after winning the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition, the president of Brazil presented him with a financial scholarship to study in Vienna. Seven years later, Freire won the Dinu Lipatti Medal in London, as well as first prize at the International Vianna da Motta Competition in Lisbon.

He has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Bayerische Rundfunk, Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra of Zürich, Vienna Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, London Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de Paris, Radio France Philharmonic, Monte Carlo Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, as well as American orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York and Philadelphia.

Mr. Freire’s Chopin recording received the most prestigious prizes in 2002: Diapason d’Or, Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros, Choc du Monde de la Musique, 10 by Repertoire, Classica. Mr. Freire’s two most recent releases received Grammy nominations: Chopin: Études, Op. 10, Barcarolle, Op. 60, Sonata No. 2 (2005) and Brahms: The Piano Concertos (2006). He is a recipient of numerous awards, among them the French Victoires de la Musique’s “Soloist of the Year 2002,” and a special Honorary Award for his lifetime career awarded in January 2005. He toured the United States as piano soloist with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and Maestro Yuri Temirkanov in the fall of 2007 with the Schumann Concerto and in 2010 will return to tour the U.S. with the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Mr. Freire’s 2008-2009 U.S. engagements include a debut with the Boston Symphony and recitals in San Francisco, Vancouver and New York City.

Classical Concert Series: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4
Friday, May 1, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. – Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. – Music Center at Strathmore
Sunday, May 3, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. – Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Mario Venzago, conductor
Nelson Freire, piano

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 (1889 version)

Free pre-concert Lecture: Classic Conversations, sponsored by the Baltimore Symphony Associates. Starting at 7:00 p.m. in the concert hall, the program is free to ticket holders. No reservations required but capacity is limited so patrons will be admitted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Tickets for these concerts range from $20 to $85, and are available through the BSO Ticket Office, 877.BSO.1444, 410.783.8000 or


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