When clarinetist Gene Coleman, leader of the local experimental-music collective Ensemble Noamnesia, first met Brazilian pianist Paulo Alvarez in Cologne, he knew he’d found a kindred spirit, a musician just as fascinated with continental Europe’s avant-garde scene as he was. Pretty soon the two started jamming together, and went on to forge a long-distance artistic partnership whose latest fruits are two recitals sponsored by the Renaissance Society this weekend. The 37-year-old Alvarez, who studied both piano and composition while in Germany, is a keen interpreter of the 20th-century Austro-Germanic chamber repertoire that ranges from Webern to Alvarez’s buddy Gerhard Stabler, as we know from his Chicago debut last fall. But his interests also extend southward–to Paris, with its gaggle of Boulez disciples, and to Italy and the influence of Bruno Maderna, Boulez’s comrade-in-arms against the remnants of the prewar establishment. Indeed, these two programs consist almost entirely of solos, duets, and small-ensemble works from three generations of Italy’s most radical composers; they’re meant to complement the society’s current granite-and-pigment installation by Giovanni Anselmo. Included among Alvarez’s solo turns are Franco Donatoni’s Rima (on Saturday) and Luciano Berio’s Sequenza IV, a compendium of modernist keyboard techniques, and Luigi Nono’s Sofferte onde serene, a fine example of coordination between piano and its taped playback (both Sunday). Alvarez knows how to treat the piano–from keys to strings–as a sound generator of infinite variety, a trove of expressive possibilities; his split-second timing, feel for dynamic contrasts, and thorough understanding of post-Schoenbergian idioms mean he’ll have no trouble with the 12-note foundation all these pieces are built on. He’ll also team up with Coleman and his group in two of the reedist’s own improv-motivated compositions. The other guest soloists are no slouches: mezzo-soprano Julia Bently gets to sing Berio’s Sequenza III, my favorite of the series, and double bassist Michael Cameron takes on the Zen-inspired Le reveil profond, by eccentric patrician Giacinto Scelsi. Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 3 PM, Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall, University of Chicago, 5811 S. Ellis; 773-702-8670. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jan Kornstaedt.