Maria João Pires officially announced her retirement from her concert career in 2018, but she has recently started returning to the stage. Born in Lisbon in 1944, the pianist gave her first concert at the age of four and won Portugal’s Jeunesses Musicales competition when she was nine; a series of additional prizes followed. In 1961, Pires received a scholarship that enabled her to continue her studies with Rosl Schmid and Karl Engel in Germany. Her international career began in 1970, when she won a competition held in Brussels to celebrate Beethoven’s 200th birthday. Landmark moments in her career included her debuts in London (1986) and New York (1989). Claudio Abbado engaged her as a soloist for the first tour of the newly founded Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in 1987, and he also conducted when Maria João Pires made her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1990. Over the following three decades, she performed throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Israel and collaborated with Daniel Barenboim, Herbert Blomstedt, Pierre Boulez, Riccardo Chailly, Bernard Haitink, Daniel Harding, Trevor Pinnock, and André Previn, in addition to Abbado. Her repertoire focuses on works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin. In the spring of 2023, she gave piano recitals in Palm Beach, Geneva, and The Hague; in June she performed Mozart’s Jenamy Concerto in Paris and Lausanne. Deutsche Grammophon released a 38-CD edition of her complete recordings for the label in 2020. Educational work holds an important place for Maria João Pires. In 1999 she founded the Belgais Centre in Portugal, where she conducts workshops for music students and amateurs. She initiated complementary projects in Belgium in 2012 under the umbrella term “Partitura.” These bring artists of different generations together to play in friendship rather than competitively and at the same time offer musical support to disadvantaged children.
Lucerne Festival (IMF) debut on 22 August 1976 in a matinee concert in memory of Clara Haskil featuring works by such composers as Bach, Mozart, and Chopin.