Maria João Pires


Born on 23 July 1944 in Lisbon, Maria João Pires gave her first public performance at the age of 4 and began her studies of music and piano with Campos Coelho and Francine Benoît, continuing later in Germany, with Rosl Schmid and Karl Engel. In addition to her concerts, she has made recordings for Erato for fifteen years and Deutsche Grammophon for twenty years. Since the 1970s, she has devoted herself to reflecting on the influence of art on life, community and education, trying to discover new ways of establishing this way of thinking in society. She has searched for new ways which, respecting the development of individuals and of cultures, encourage the sharing of ideas. In 1999, she created the Centre for the Study of the Arts of Belgais in Portugal. She broadened the reach of this philosophy to Salamanca and Bahia in Brazil. In 2012, in Belgium, she initiated two complementary projects; the Equinox project which creates and develops choirs for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the 'Partitura Project', the aim of which is to create an altruistic dynamic between artists of different generations by proposing an alternative in a world too often focused on competitiveness.

November 2016 - This Biography must not be edited without the Permission of Askonas Holt

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News & Features


Concerto Repertoire:

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major, No.3 in C minor, No.4 in G major

CHOPIN Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor

MOZART Piano Concertos No.9 in E flat major K.271, No.17 in G major, K.453, No.21 in C major K.467, No.20 in D minor
K.466, No.23 in A major K.488, No.27 in B flat K.595

SCHUMANN Piano Concerto in A minor

MOZART Double Piano Concerto in E flat major, K.365

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major

CHOPIN Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor

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Media Player


    Piano Concerto No. 21



Teatro Circo de Marte, TENERIFE

CHOPIN Sonata in B flat Minor Op.35, No.2 (JB)
BEETHOVEN Sonata in C Minor, Op.111, No.32 (MJP)
CHOPIN 3 Nocturnes, Op.9 (MJP)
CHOPIN 3 Nocturnes, Op.15 (JB)
CHOPIN 2 Nocturnes, Op.27 (MJP)

Julien Brocal, piano

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Educational Work

Maria João Pires is a devoted teacher and such is her dedication to developing young talent, she will give performances with her gifted piano students over the coming seasons under the 'Partitura Project'. Initiated by Maria João, the aim of this project is to create an altruistic dynamic between artists of different generations and to offer an alternative in a world too often focused on competitiveness. You can see who she is currently working with here. Maria João Pires is also involved in the 'Equinox project', which is devoted to developing children's choirs in underprivileged areas. It aims to share the artistic excellence of musicians with children who would otherwise not have access to the world of music.

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Concert 27 January 2017

City Halls, Glasgow with Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

"... with Pires ... on absolutely magnificent form. Tiny and powerful, she is the ideal partner for the SCO, and their seasoned relationship produced the finest results here, with the contrast between the two concertos mirroring the transformation in the sound produced by the players between the Dvorak and the Mozart" (Five stars) Keith Bruce, Herald Scotland, 29 January 2017


Concert 15 March 2016

Carnegie Hall, New York with Kent Nagano and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal

"... an elegant technician and probing interpreter without a trace of flashiness. Her playing of the Beethoven concerto showed that a performance can be both refined and bracing. Her poetic way and lyrical grace in the slow movement were particularly beautiful..." Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, 16 March 2016
"Every note of Ms. Pires’ interpretation breathes with intention, and her sound is unique and endlessly exciting." Mark McLaren, Zeal, 15 March 2016

Concert 10 March 2016

Severance Hall, Cleveland

"Pianists Maria Joao Pires and Julien Brocal shared a stage in the most intimate of manners Thursday. Taking turns at the keyboard in Reinberger Chamber Hall while the other sat close by, they touchingly blurred the line between master and protégé while clearly defining themselves as individuals with works by Beethoven and Ravel." Zachary Lewis,, 11 March 2016


Piano Concerto No.3

With The San Francisco Symphony/ Herbert Blomstedt

"Pires was at her finest in the concerto's outer movements, tossing off the intricate passagework of the opening Allegro with plenty of sparkle and producing exuberant, crisply articulate phrases in the finale" Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News, 26 February 2016
"With Conductor Laureate Herbert Blomstedt leading the orchestra and Maria João Pires playing with sublime finesse, this was a performance of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto that emphasized the delicacy of this work. Ms. Pires never overstates the music. Even when playing fortissimo, she never hammers away as many other pianists do when playing Beethoven. Instead, Pires takes us inside the music, enabling us to feel the delicacy that often gets over-whelmed by more aggressive pianists." James Roy MacBean, The Berkeley Daily Planet, 26 February 2016
"The final Rondo was thrilling from both a technical and expressive point of view. She tackled all the finale’s demands with apparent ease and without sacrificing any of the lyrical genius she displayed in the slow movement." Nate Ben-Horin, Peninsula Reviews, 29 February 2016
"The performance could be summarized with the words sincere and cohesive. There was not a note out of place, and the pianist and orchestra were truly in concert with each other. Instead of the pianist dominating the performance, Pires was acutely aware of her responsibilities, sharing the space with the orchestra. It was the mark of an artist who was serving the music. Speed and power will always win accolades, but Pires refused to resort to pyrotechnics, and preserved the timeless quality of the work." Ken Iisaka, San Francisco Classical Voice, 2 March 2016
"Pires' assured and expressive reading of the Beethoven Concerto started with bold and aristocratic  confidence, but she also showed a vivacious side. Unafraid of taking playful risks, with Blomstedt's  sympathetic support she essayed a highly characterful interpretation. It was well-worth waiting for." Philip Campbell, The Bay Area Reporter, 03 March 2016


Piano Concerto No 9

With Daniel Harding and LSO at the Barbican

".... Best of the all was the finale, the playfulness of the music projected by piano and orchestra alike." Christian Hoskins, Music OMH 8 December 2015


Piano Concerto No 27

With the Gewandhausorchester at the Barbican

"As for the soloist Maria João Pires, she played with a perfectly turned grace that had a vein of steel underneath. In the middle of the 1st movement, where Mozart makes the strangest harmonic move in his entire output, she found a special tone, veiled and aloof. It was beyond moving, like the enigmatic smile on a Greek statue’s face." Ivan Hewett, Telegraph, 21 October 2015


A major piano concerto K488

BBC Prom with Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Bernard Haitink, Royal Albert Hall

"The pianist Maria João Pires has always had sparkle as well as high seriousness in her Mozart playing. She proved an energising partner for Haitink in a well-seasoned performance of Mozart’s A major piano concerto K488. The busy affability of the opening allegro was never forced, the lonely solo line of the adagio was spun out beautifully by Pires in dialogue with the COE’s woodwinds, and the finale was full of wristy and ideally weighted keyboard panache." Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 30 August 2015
"The Adagio, cast in the key of F sharp minor, was introduced by Maria João Pires with the utmost feeling. With the soloist often heard against the barest of accompaniments the poetry of João Pires’ artistry was readily apparent in, for example, the inflections of light and shade that she brought to the several series of repeated notes that pepper the music." Evan Dickerson, Music OMH, 29 August 2015
"As Pires returned to the loveliest theme in Mozart’s first movement and the woodwind followed suit, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven."
David Nice, The Arts Desk, 29 August 2015
"In Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, K. 488, Maria João Pires matched the orchestra with playing that was modest in scale, gloriously immodest in its beauty." Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 31 August 2015
"Pires’s performance was flawless and serene. There was a bloom on her notes as she announced the opening theme, her articulation was pellucid, and her passage-work delicately expressive. Her solos in the plangently lilting Adagio seemed to float in space, and the right-hand runs in the finale were pearlised." Michael Church, The Independent, 3 September 2015


PIano Concerto No 9

With the Budapest Festival Orchestra/Ivan Fischer

When eminent Portuguese-born pianist Maria João Pires came on stage to play Mozart’s first great piano concerto, No. 9 in E flat major, it felt as if a kindred spirit had arrived. Listening to her is like looking through a limpid pool of pure water... the sheer grace of those tinkling passages was so appealing one never missed it. The silvery sound she made in the slow courtly dance in the finale, which interrupted the onrush like a magic spell, lingers in my ear even now. The Telegraph 21 May 2015


Piano Concerto No 23 K488

With the Boston Symphony/Bernard Haitink

As a whole it had the lightness and sweetness of champagne bubbles. Pires’s playing was confident, lyrical and received a well-earned standing ovation., 2 May 2015

Schumann Piano Concerto

With London Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Harding

Recording for LSO Live

She (Pires) has the enviable ability to make everything sound fresh but natural, and her tone is enchanting.

Roger Nichols, BBC Music Magazine, February 2015
"The best Schumann recordings of the last five years" Rob Cowan, Grammophone, January 2016

Recital with Antonio Meneses

Victoria Hall Geneva, 6 October 2014

From the first note, one knew that they shared a common musical vision and integrity...Maria Joao Pires displayed an underlying tension in the music, uniting softness and firmness in grand expressive lines. Le Temps Geneve, 8 October 2014


Piano Concertos nos 3 & 4

Recording with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Harding

"Here, after many performances over the years, she's recording the Beethoven Third and Fourth Concertos for the first time - and playing them with such unaffected simplicity that you feel the notes speaking, never the pianist herself. Turbulent emotions, grandiose gestures and winking gaiety arrive as they should, yet nothing is pushed to extremes....Pires's fingers bring nothing but enchantment, tracing patterns with eloquence and clarity."

The Times 18 July 2014
"few performances come within distance of Pires’s Classical/Romantic perspective ... she achieves wonders of eloquence and transparency ... Pires’s performances are quite simply of another order." Bryce Morrison, Gramophone


Piano Concerto No 2

With the Vienna Symphony/Adám Fischer

And there was, rising above all, the force of nature that is Pires. This concert could have very well been written for her, such is her understanding of the universe of contrasts in which Beethoven’s music lives. She is able to make the most improbable modulation sound like a smooth transition, breathing through the bars and keeping a balance among voices 6 December 2013


Barbican Concert 17 February 2013

Beethoven PC No 2 with the London Symphony Orchestra/Bernard Haitink

She seized her first entry with surprising urgency, and gave the hopping bass figures real bite. Haitink took the slow movement at a luxuriously slow tempo, which Pires used to point up the music’s lyricism. The Telegraph 18 February 2013

Recital with Antonio Meneses

Wigmore Hall London

Clarity and naturalness have always characterised Pires's playing. From the serene, piano solo opening of Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata, her sense of equilibrium – musical and physical – held all in balance and grabbed our attention. Nothing sounded effortful. Complex figurations became light work. In this mesmerising ease and quiet virtuosity she was matched by Meneses, whose full, glowing tone remains secure even at the highest register. The Observer 8 January 2012


CHOPIN 12 Nocturnes Pires GRAND PRIX

Deutsche Grammophon disc

“Passion rather than insouciance is Pires’s keynote. Here is an intensity and drama that scorn all complacent salon or drawing-room expectations. How she relishes Chopin’s central storms, creating a vivid and spectacular yet unhistrionic contrast with all surrounding serenity or ‘embalmed darkness’. The con fuoco of Op 15 No 1 erupts in a fine fury and in the first Nocturne, Op 9 No 1, Pires’s sharp observance of Chopin’s appassionato marking comes like a prophecy of the coda’s sudden blaze.” Gramophone, 10 October 2016



BEETHOVEN Piano Concertos 3 & 4

Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor op.37
1 I Allegro con brio
2 II Largo
3 III Rondo: Allegro

Piano Concerto No.4 in G op.58
4 I Allegro moderato 19.43
5 II Andante con moto 4.57
6 III Rondo: Vivace 10.21

With the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Harding, conductor

Onyx Classics

Brahms Complete Chamber Music

Collectors Edition
With chamber partners:
Barbizet · Demus · Fleisher · Pires · Serkin
Vásáry · Brandis · Dumay · Ferras
Aronowitz · Caussé · Christ · Borwitzky
Pleeth · Rostropovich · J. Wang · Leister
Shifrin · Hauptmann · Amadeus Quartet
Emerson String Quartet · Hagen Quartett

Deutsche Grammophon