Fifty years ago, at age seven, Daniel Barenboim made his professional debut in his native Buenos Aires, and for the golden anniversary of that occasion he’s holding a series of concerts, here and at Carnegie Hall, with old friends and longtime collaborators. Last Sunday he played Symphony Center with an all-star lineup that included Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Yo-Yo Ma–a show that sold out months ago, before many of his fans even learned it was happening. But at press time tickets were still available for a pair of concerts this weekend: a duo recital on Friday with Romanian pianist Radu Lupu and a solo outing on Sunday. The solo recital’s eclectic program consists of pieces by Liszt, Schoenberg, and Albeniz, and as a pianist Barenboim is especially compelling when he plays alone, unfettered by another strong ego. But my pick is the Friday show, for its all-Schubert bill: Variations on an Original Theme in A-flat, Fantasia in F Minor, and the Sonata in C, or “Grand Duo.” Barenboim and Lupu have played some of Schubert’s piano duets together already–in fact, they recorded the Variations and the Sonata for a 1997 Teldec CD–so they’re certain to be in sync here, their decades of friendship coloring the give-and-take so vital to the music. Barenboim hasn’t won everyone over as conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra–his penchant for springing new tempos and dynamics on his players, for instance, has cast some doubt on his interpretive acumen–but in more intimate settings his mercurial bent often produces fascinating results. Lupu, a late bloomer relative to his partner here, made his debut at age 12; his personality isn’t as forceful as Barenboim’s, but his playing is always graceful and thoughtful–he’s an especially sensitive interpreter of Schubert, and can make every melodic statement as memorable as a beautiful song. Friday, November 24, 8 PM, and Sunday, November 26, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-551-1414.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mary Robert.