Acclaimed Pianist Maria João Pires Returns to Chopin for Her New CD

Available Exclusively from CLASSICALARCHIVES.COM on May 19
All Digital Retailers on June 2
Available in-Stores Junes 23

Maria João Pires, widely recognized as one of the most brilliant pianists of the last forty years, celebrates her 20th anniversary as a Deutsche Grammophon exclusive recording artist with an all-new, 2-CD release devoted entirely to the works of Chopin. Pires’s affinity for Chopin has always been well-known to both critics and audiences; in fact, her interpretations are so beloved that her 1996 recording of Chopin’s Nocturnes remains the best-selling solo piano recording by an active artist on Deutsche Grammophon of the past 20 years.

The album will be available exclusively from ClassicalArchives.com on May 19. ClassicalArchives.com, created for the specific needs of the classical enthusiast, has been completely redesigned. The site offers both streaming and high quality download options, all easily and logically organized for simple searching. The album will be available on all digital platforms on June 2 and in-stores on June 23, 2009.

For this all-new album, Pires says she wanted “not a systematic traversal of Chopin’s output but a sort of stroll through this late period.” All of the featured works were composed between 1844, the date of Chopin’s Third Sonata, and 1849, the year of the composer’s death. During this brief period of time his health greatly deteriorated and his relationship with George Sand fell apart; however, Chopin was able to produce some of his most challenging and emotionally substantive works. Pires feels “very strongly that in these late works, pain has finally been integrated and in a way alleviated by its acceptance.”

In addition to the profound, soul-searching emotional depth of these works, Chopin continued to expand the possibilities of form and harmony. “People always speak of the fantastical character of the Second Sonata,” say Pires, “with its blackness and ghostly final movement without form or tonality …. The Third Sonata, conversely, may seem more tightly controlled, but it is in fact profoundly chaotic: there’s an energy here that rises and falls incessantly as if Chopin were recalling past struggles and was using them to leap forwards to an entirely new logic. Whenever I play this work, I have the impression that it starts by taking everything apart before reassembling it again.”

Though the Third Piano Sonata anchors this new recording, Pires includes a number of nocturnes, mazurkas and waltzes. Chopin radically changed these musical forms from simple songs into works of art. Always devoted to lyrical, almost operatic melodies, Chopin incorporated even more daring chromatic harmony and counterpoint into these final works.

To further explore Chopin’s musical voice near the end of his life, Pires has chosen to include the Cello Sonata. Chopin rarely wrote for anything other than the solo piano making this work a unique and somewhat incongruous part of his output. Pires approaches this work “through the voice, the voice that seeks to express what is otherwise inexpressible – that of the cello, of course.”

It has been over four years since Maria João Pires released a new recording on Deutsche Grammophon, and with this generous exploration of Chopin’s later years she reasserts her position as one of the world’s most respected pianists.

“Chopin continued to write waltzes and mazurkas right up to the end of his life, just as he had always done, but behind the dancing there is a gravity that both inspires us and alerts us – I almost feel like saying that he makes us aware of our responsibilities, inviting us to go beyond ourselves, something that is the most precious of life’s lessons. It’s the path that leads to the vita nova, and this, ultimately, is the voice of late-period Chopin.” – Maria João Pires

Maria João Pires was born in Lisbon in 1944. She made her first public performance at the age of seven with Mozart’s Piano Concertos in Oporto , Portugal . At the age of nine she received Portugal ’s highest award for young musicians just one year later. From 1953 until 1960 she stu­died at the Lisbon Conservatory with Professor Campos Coelho and took courses in composition, theory, and history of music with Francine Benoit. She continued her studies in Germany with Rosl Schmid and Karl Engel. Maria João Pires has appeared all over the globe with all the major orchestras including the Berliner Philhar­moniker, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, and the Wiener Philharmoniker. She is also a keen performer of chamber music. In recent years she has been heard at all the major international festivals including the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festi­val, the Schubertiade, Tanglewood, Ravinia, Montpellier, Lucerne, Edinburgh and BBC Proms.

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