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Orchestra Hall, January 19, 1958

On January 19, 1958, fifteen-year-old Daniel Barenboim made his piano recital debut at Orchestra Hall, with the following program:

BACH/Liszt Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata)
BRAHMS Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 1
BEN-HAIM Intermezzo and Toccata, Op. 34

The next day in the American, Roger Dettmer wrote, “Only very occasionally some youngster will happen along who seems to have been born adult . . . The prodigy turned out yesterday afternoon to be Daniel Barenboim, born fifteen years ago in Argentina. The talent is huge, the technique already formidable and he applied both to a virtuoso program [with] secure musical training and uncommon sensitivity of touch.”

He returned in November of that year and again every couple of years after that for more solo piano recitals, including—over the course of a month between February 26 and March 27, 1986—a series of eight concerts, traversing Beethoven’s complete cycle of piano sonatas.

After becoming the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s ninth music director in September 1991, Barenboim made regular appearances as piano recitalist and chamber musician, collaborating with an extraordinary roster of instrumentalists and singers. He performed a dizzying array of repertoire, including Albéniz’s Iberia; Bach’s Goldberg Variations; Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion; Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations; Berg’s Chamber Concerto for Piano, Violin, and Thirteen Wind Instruments (with Pierre Boulez conducting); Brahms’s cello sonatas; Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Songs of a Wayfarer, and Rückert Lieder; Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time; Mozart’s complete violin sonatas; Schubert’s Winterreise; Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben; Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Wesendonk Lieder; and Wolf’s Italian Songbook; along with other piano works by Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Schoenberg, and Schubert, among others.

Barenboim’s collaborators included instrumentalists Héctor Console, Lang Lang, Radu Lupu, Yo-Yo Ma, Rodolfo Mederos, Itzhak Perlman, András Schiff, Deborah Sobol, Maxim Vengerov, and Pinchas Zukerman, along with singers Kathleen BattleCecilia Bartoli, Angela Denoke, Plácido Domingo, Thomas Hampson, Robert Holl, Waltraud Meier, Thomas Quasthoff, Peter Schreier, and Bo Skovhus. He also invited countless members of the Orchestra to join him, including Stephen Balderston, Li-Kuo Chang, Robert Chen, Dale Clevenger, Larry Combs, Louise Dixon, Edward Druzinsky, Jay Friedman, Rubén González, Richard Graef, Joseph Guastafeste, John Hagstrom, Adolph Herseth, Richard Hirschl, Alex Klein, Donald Koss, Burl Lane, Samuel Magad, David McGill, Michael Mulcahy, Lawrence Neuman, Bradley Opland, Nancy Park, Donald Peck, Gene Pokorny, Mark Ridenour, James Ross, Norman Schweikert, John Sharp, Gregory Smith, Charles Vernon, Gail Williams, and members of the Chicago Symphony Chorus (prepared by Duain Wolfe), among many others.

June 4 and 11, 2006

During the final residency of his tenure as music director, Barenboim presented Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier in two piano recitals: the first book on June 4, 2006; and the second book a week later, on June 11.

Reviewing the June 4 concert, John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune wrote that Barenboim, “brought the full color resources of a modern concert grand to bear on Bach’s pristinely ordered sound-world . . . Bach never intended for musicians to perform all the preludes and fugues in one gulp, but when they are executed at so exalted a level of thought, feeling, and spirituality, who’s to say they shouldn’t?”

Following the second installment, Wynne Delacoma in the Chicago Sun-Times added, “One of Barenboim’s gifts as a pianist is his ability to etch clear, long-lined, richly colored phrases with seemingly no effort [and in Bach’s music] we heard the foundation on which the rest of his music-making has been built. . . . The applause that brought Barenboim back for extra bows was fervent and heartfelt. Barenboim’s annual piano recitals have been high points of Chicago’s musical life for the past fifteen years. They are appreciated and will be deeply missed.”

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