Maria João Pirespiano
It was like a nightmare: at a lunch concert with Riccardo Chailly conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Maria João Pires was expecting the first bars of the orchestral exposition of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C major, K. 467. When the first bars of the Concerto in D minor, K. 466 were played instead, the pianist was in a state of sheer panic. Chailly whispered, “Come on, you can do it!” She pulled herself together – and played the “wrong” concerto from memory, without a single mistake.
Maria João Pires gave her first concert at the age of four and won the Portuguese Jeunesses Musicales competition at nine. She began her training at the music academy in her home town under Campos Coelho and Francine Benoît. In 1961, she received a scholarship that enabled her to continue her studies under Rosl Schmid and Karl Engel in Germany. In 1970, First Prize at the Beethoven Competition in Brussels laid the foundation for her international career, which took her to many concerts and solo recitals throughout Europe, Canada, Japan, Israel and the USA. Important milestones in Maria João Pires’s career were her debuts in London (1986), New York (1989) and Vienna (1990), where she made her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado at the Salzburg Easter Festival. Maria João Pires has also made numerous guest appearances with the Berliner Philharmoniker since 1991, including the 2003 Europakonzert, which took place in her native city of Lisbon. In 1999, the musician founded an intercultural centre in Belgais, Portugal, near the Spanish border. She also founded the project Partitura, which brings together young and experienced artists in a spirit of friendly cooperation without competitive spirit.