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Stephen Manes, the longtime leader of UB’s music department, is back in town. Manes, who now lives in Los Angeles, is performing two challenging concerts.

The first concert, part of Buffalo’s historic Friends of Vienna concert series, is Sunday and is in collaboration with the distinguished University at Buffalo cellist Jonathan Golove.

The second concert Tuesday is a solo concert.

Manes always has thought creatively and he likes to arrange his concerts around a theme. For Tuesday’s concert at UB, he will be playing sets of variations.

The centerpiece is Beethoven’s mountainous “Diabelli” Variations. Manes has an affinity with Beethoven – a few years ago, at UB, he played all 32 sonatas in one year. The “Diabelli” could be the biggest undertaking of all. In these variations on a trite tune by a Viennese publisher, Beethoven showed how something sublime could be built from a theme that could be called silly. It’s a fascinating concept, and the music was the inspiration for the recent Broadway play “33 Variations,” about a musicologist tangled in the music’s twists and turns.

Tuesday’s concert also includes Mendelssohn’s oddly haunting “Variations Sérieuses” and Haydn’s Variations in F Minor. Rounding out the concert are Aaron Copland’s Piano Variations, a piece dating to 1930.

For the Friends of Vienna concert, Manes and Golove are playing sonatas from the Classical and Romantic eras: Beethoven’s Sonata No. 5 in D, Op. 102, No. 2; Schumann’s “Fantasiestuecke,” or Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73; and Brahms’ Sonata in E minor, Op. 38.

The Friends of Vienna concert is 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Ave.

Tickets are $10, students $5, and are available at the door. For info, visit www.friendsofvienna.org.

Manes’ solo concert is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Slee Hall on UB’s Amherst Campus. Admission is $10, students $5. For info, call 645-2921.

email: mkunz@buffnews.com