Maria João Pires (born in Lisbon, Portugal, 23 July 1944) is a Portuguese pianist.
Her first recital was at the age of five, and at the age of seven she was already playing Mozart piano concertos publicly. Two years later she received Portugal's top prize for young musicians. In the following years, she studied with Campos Coelho at the Lisbon Conservatory, taking courses in composition, theory, and history of music. She continued her studies in Germany, first in the Musikakademie of Munich with Rosl Schmidt and then in Hanover with Karl Engel.
International fame came in 1970, when she won the Beethoven Bicentennial Competition in Brussels. Subsequently she performed with major orchestras in Europe, America, Canada, Israel and Japan, interpreting works by Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin and other classical and romantic composers.
Her professionalism achieved worldwide recognition when a film (from 1999) was drawn to the attention of the press and went viral in 2013 - at the start of a lunchtime concert in Amsterdam she realised she had rehearsed for a different Mozart concerto from the one the orchestra had started playing; quickly recovering, she played the concerto from memory.
Pires performed at the BBC Proms in 2010. In an interview beforehand she said that after 60 years of recitals and concerts she had cut back her performances but was non-committal about retirement.
Pires performs as a solo artist and in chamber music: her many successful recordings include Moonlight, featuring Beethoven sonatas, Le Voyage Magnifique, the complete Impromptus of Schubert, Nocturnes and other works by Chopin, and Mozart Trios with Augustin Dumay (violin) and Jian Wang (cello).
She won the Pessoa Prize in 1989, and founded the Belgais Centre for Study of the Arts in 1999.
Gramophone selected her recordings of the Chopin nocturnes as the best version available: "I have no hesitation in declaring Maria João Pires – a pianist without a trace of narcissism – among the most eloquent master-musicians of our time" (Bryce Morrison).
One of her acclaimed recordings is "Mozart: The Piano Sonatas". According to the Penguin Guide: "Maria João Pires is a stylist and a fine Mozartian. She is always refined yet never wanting in classical feeling, and she has a vital imagination. She strikes an ideal balance between poise and expressive sensibility, conveying a sense of spontaneity in everything she does".