Returning to Orchestra Hall for the fourth year in a row as part of his ongoing survey of the Beethoven piano sonatas, Alfred Brendel this time tackles the most difficult and emotionally rewarding of the cycle, the last three sonatas. Never mind that just about every worthy pianist is embarking on the same project–though in a shorter span, as Maurizio Pollini is doing–Brendel’s experience-informed Beethovens are still very much a treat. (He’ll also play the first and fourth concerti, under Lawrence Foster’s direction, in next week’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra subscription concerts.) Besides, this seems to be a milestone year for the Austrian-born elder statesman of music: he’s turned 65, and Philips Classics is issuing a 25-CD boxed set of the recordings he’s made over a four-decade career, including his historic 1983 traversal of the Beethoven cycle. More than a decade later, Brendel may have new things to say about these richly textured and intellectually invigorating last sonatas, each of which is a grand summation of the classical style and a harbinger of newfangled Romantic postures. At the very least, one should expect clean, elegant playing and uncommon insights from the last of the postwar generation of piano greats. Monday, 7 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.