João Bettencourt da Câmara was born in Lisbon on February 24 1988. At the age of three, after his introduction to piano by his father, João was admitted to the Lisbon National Conservatory, where he finished his piano studies with the highest marks . He attended many piano competitions, and received prizes from every single competition: Second Prize in Florinda Santos Piano Competition (1998), two-time First Prize in Cidade do Fundão Competition (1999 and 2000), First Prize in Maria Cristina Lino Pimentel Competition (2001), among others.
In 1999, he was chosen by the board of directors of the Lisbon National Conservatory to participate in the second edition of the “Veo Veo” International Competition, organized by TVE (the main Spanish television and radio broadcaster), where he received the Jury’s Special Prize, a competition with candidates from over thirty countries.
João gave his first recital at the age of seven. In the following years he played in Lisbon, Porto, Madeira and the Azores Islands. After his first appearance as a soloist in 2002, when he played Mozart’s A Major Concerto K. 414, he performed with Portugal’s leading symphony orchestras. He has played such repertoire as Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Gershiwn’s Rhapsody in blue, Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor and Liszt’s Piano Concerto n. 2.
Since the age of ten, João has worked with world-renowned pianists, such as Vladimir Viardo, Helena de Sá e Costa, Tânia Achot, Pedro Burmester, Sequeira Costa, Artur Pizarro, Dmitri Bashkirov and Aldo Ciccolini. After hearing João’s performance for the first time, Ciccolini said: “Il est monstrueusemement doué”.
In 2005 João applied to three music colleges in London: the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (City University London), the Royal Academy of Music (University of London) and the Royal College of Music, and he was immediately accepted at each college. After acceptig to attend RCM, he was offered the “Foundation Scholar” award.
According to Dr. Colin Lawson (director of the RCM), in a letter sent to João, he states: “to be offered a place as a Foundation Scholar of the Royal College of Music is a considerable achievement. These are the RCM awards with the longest tradition: the first Foundation Scholarships were awarded when the College was founded in 1882. The list of former Foundation Scholars now contains the names of many of the world’s leading musicians.”
João has chosen to continue his studies at the Royal College of Music with Ruth Nye (MBE), a former pupil of Claudio Arrau and one of the world’s foremost piano teachers. He is also a scholar of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation since September 2006.
He graduated in 2010 from the RCM as the year’s best student, obtaining 93 out of 100 (a historically high mark for the final recital of a piano degree).
Currently, João studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Martin Roscoe and Ronan O’Hora, where he also holds a scholarship, awarded by The Noswad Charity.
João’s first international tour was in June 2007, to the United States of America, having performed in Washington D. C., Providence and Boston. After hearing his performance in Washington, Stephen Neal Dennis, of the All Arts Review magazine, wrote: “History was made last night at the Portuguese Ambassador’s Residence in Washington when the concert by young Portuguese pianist João Bettencourt da Câmara ended. Having heard extraordinary performances of music by Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, the audience rose spontaneously for a standing ovation for a pianist few had ever heard of previously. (…) Only 19, Bettencourt da Câmara possesses a fearsome technique, something that has become so routine a component in concerts by younger pianists that audiences almost yawn when promised something spectacular. What is unexpected is the emotional depth of personal involvement that this pianist brings to each piece he plays. For a generation that never knew the young Sviatoslav Richter, one is forced to wonder how much more Richter himself could give at the age of 19”.
João’s latest appearances included performances of Mozart’s Concerto in D minor and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2, a solo recital that marked the opening of the piano cycle of Casa da Música (Porto) and other appearances in the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Lisbon) and France.
In 2010 and 2011, João will be performing in Portugal and the United States of America. His next USA tour will include the world premiere and CD recording of Bernard Scherr’s Piano Concerto and the Luso-American composer’s solo piece “The paintings of João de Brito”.