Piano Recital Maria Joao Pires Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall Reviewed: Nov 8 Maria Joao Pires' recital last Thursday was definitely worth the wait. In front of classical music fans who gathered at the Concert Hall like reverential pilgrims, the great Portuguese pianist performed works by Schubert and Beethoven with her trademark warmth of tone and passion tempered by introspective wisdom. The evening began with Ginastera's Danzas Argentinas, three vignettes of contrasting characters that Pires highlighted with lively rhythms and lyricism. Then came Scarlatti's K208 Sonata, executed with a rhapsodic flow and much joy. Three Schubert works followed, straddling the intermission: the D664 Sonata and the first two of the Op 142 Impromptus. Pires not only made the piano 'sing' Schubert's melodies, she also gave due emphasis to the bass lines, using them not just to 'float' the tunes but also to convey their own messages. Thus, even when the music at the top register was sublime as only Schubert could write, there was always an accompanying sinister rumbling in a tragic undertone. All this Pires achieved with superb openness and that intimate, human quality of her playing. A crowning performance of Beethoven's Op 110 Sonata brought the programme to an end. Pires played this masterpiece with great subtlety, often with a touch so soft that one forgot the percussive nature of the piano. Her approach was impassioned. As the last chord of the glorious fugue that closes Op 110 faded, there was a moment of awed silence when no one applauded. Pires subsequently bowed with a modest smile to the cheering audience, who surely knew that they had just witnessed the 63-year-old's artistic vision of a lifetime.