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Daniel Barenboim, who’s more musically astute as a pianist than a conductor, teams up with Andras Schiff, another first-class keyboardist with conducting aspirations, for this recital of rarely performed piano duos. Because it was a convenient way to double the sonority and volume of the orchestral hits of the day, music for two pianos originated as salon entertainment, but it has become much more. Schumann’s Andante and Variations for Two Pianos, Two Cellos, and Horn (1842), written for his wife Clara and Mendelssohn, is achingly lyrical and moody, its peculiar instrumentation reflecting Schumann’s preference for low, mellow sounds. Brahms’s Sonata in F Minor (1871), a recasting of his famous Piano Quintet, is an exemplary exploitation of the quasi-orchestral, coloristic potential of two pianos. Studded with rhythmically vital and full-throttle fortissimo passages, it courses through a series of emotional ups and downs that demand heroic performers like Brahms and Liszt’s pupil Karl Tausig, who premiered the work in Vienna more than a century ago. A third piece on the program, Bartok’s peppy Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937), took the genre in a modernist direction by treating the pianos as members of the percussion family. Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellists Stephen Balderston and Richard Hirschl and hornist Gail Williams will join Barenboim and Schiff for the Schumann, and CSO regulars Donald Koss and James Ross will handle percussion on the Bartok. Sunday, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Lelli and Masotti, Erato.