Major pianist calls time on her career

Major pianist calls time on her career


norman lebrecht

October 10, 2017

The luminous Maria Joao Pires has told concert managers that she will retire from touring and public performances during the course of next year.

The Portuguese-born pianist is 73 years old and has been on stage since she was five.

Her breakthrough came in Brussels, in 1970, winning the Beethoven Bicentennial Competition.

Reticent, modest and deeply spiritual, she will be sorely missed.

This is her most famous video, the day the orchestra started playing a concerto she had not prepared.


  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    My favorite female pianist!
    Wish her all the best ~

  • Mike Schachter says:

    A great pianist. And still young!

  • Ben says:

    God dropped a treasure chest into Kimmel Center when she replaced Pollini at last minute a few years ago @ Philadelphia.

    It was music making at its finest, period.

    (not sure why that not-so-Kodak-moment video clip is shown here….)

    • La Verita says:

      I wasn’t at the Kimmel center performance, but I heard the Carnegie Hall concert- where she simply couldn’t be heard – her sound was too small. That was always her problem, which is most likely why she wisely confined her career mostly to smaller European halls and to recordings. She was always poetic and musicianly, but due to her small hands and slight frame, her repertoire was limited.

      • Errico says:

        Oh yeah? Have you heard her play a Chopin concerto in performance?. No problem with volume there! Yes, tiny hands, but she never let that get in her way ( even though she described playing a modern grand as “wrestling with an elephant”. The elephant always lost, and became singing putty in those hands of hers.)

      • Manu says:

        Actually, her huge sound is one of her main characteristics. For instance Argerich has much less solo and orchestral repertoire than her.

  • Eyal Braun says:

    She is currently performing Beethoven’s C minor concerto in Israel with the IPO, I will attend a performance in Haifa next week.

  • Ira Dvir says:

    Endless hours of pleasure listening to MJP playing Chopin’s 1st Europe Chamber Orchestra Emmanuel Krivine, 2nd, Royal Philharmonic Previn, Nocturnes, Schuberts impromptus and Franck’s sonata with Dumay…so many of Mozart sonatas… Here’s a link to the 20th concerto. An old and amazing recording with Armin Jordan. What a pianist! Her playing is ocean deep. She plays the heart and soul of almost every piece. My favorite by far. Enjoy!

  • Robert Roy says:

    A very fine pianist whose presence on the stage will be much missed.

  • Peter Tarsio says:

    Great pianist and the one who said there is no piano technique. Love her playing.

  • Marcia H. Mally says:

    What an amazing pianist to be able to switch from one prepared Mozart concerto to another unprepared one with such sensitivity and tenderness in Maria’s playing! A loss to all of us with her retirement from the musicworld.

  • Sue says:

    Wonderful pianist!! That film except included here; brilliant!! It’s really the only Mozart Piano concerto that I like and it’s terribly moving to see her grapple with an unexpected performance.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Only Mozart concerto you enjoy? Have you heard this recording?

      • Sue says:

        Sorry, the Mozart concertos bore me. I lost interest over 30 years ago!

        • M says:

          Why are you apologizing for Mozart concertos bothering you? You don’t have to since your opinion doesn’t offend anyone- because it simply matters to no one. You are one of those people who dislikes Mozart because it’s “intelectually cool” to do so. “Look at me, I’m such an iconoclast!”. The people who really matter- the history renowed composers- bowed down before Mozart’s name as well as the main names in the literature, philosophical and, mainly, theology world. So, you don’t really have to apologize for your opinion: you’re not in the pot of the ones who matter 😉

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    One of my most favorite pianists. A formidable musician and artist. Hopefully the recording studio will hold a place for her continued legacy?

  • CK Lau says:

    Similar thing happened with MJP and C Abbado re a Mozart concerto.

  • PaulD says:

    I got to see her when she stood in at the last moment for Murray Perahia. A lovely performance of the Mozart No. 27.

  • Bruce says:

    A beautiful, beautiful player. Never had a chance to hear her live, but I’m grateful she has recorded so much.

  • oncejohn says:

    years ago i was on a tour with her. she was playing mozart and we were in moscow and the hotel was miles from the hall. between the balance reh in the morning and the concert i took a walk and came back hours early to check my email (the wifi only worked on stage.) maria was practicing, all alone in the hall. she looked up and said: ‘oh, if you want to practice here i can go somewhere else…’

    i mean, really! me! a tutti orch member! what humility and generosity. i of course declined her offer and we started talking. i told her when i was little i used to like to nap under the piano when my dad practiced. she told me her kids would all do the same. bring pillows and camp out.

    i had some nerve: ‘do you mind if i take a nap while you practice mozart?’ not at all she said, and then i had 20 mins under a 9 foot steinway listening to her play mozart.

    amazing, kind, beautiful artist.

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    A lovely player with a very sensitive touch in wide repertoire ranging from Mozart, Beethoven to Chopin. Will be much missed on the concert stage but at least she’s made many recordings

  • Sasha Valeri Millwood says:

    I rate Pires as one of the two greatest living pianists (the other being Zimerman). Her musicality and sensitivity make for compelling performances, to the extent that even such repertoire as I have heard many times before sounds engaging and refreshing under her hands.