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Return of the Master 

The 20-year-old pianist Lang Lang makes a triumphant return to Tucson this weekend for two solo concerts.

Since September 2000, when he played here as an astonishing but relatively unknown 17-year-old, Lang has tallied up an extraordinary series of successes. He made a sold-out debut at Carnegie Hall (April 2001), played in Beijing with the Philadelphia Orchestra (June 2001), had a week-long, sold-out series of concerts at the Ravinia Festival outside Chicago (July 2002) and last fall played with the New York Philharmonic in the Big Apple. In between, he's found time for assorted tours of Asia and Europe, and played with leading orchestras from the Cleveland to Baltimore to the London Philharmonic.

His Tucson concerts are "really an incredible opportunity," said Randy Spalding, a board member of the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, presenter of the Lang Lang concerts. "People are saying he's the greatest pianist alive in the world. People are saying he's the new Horowitz. We're really lucky to have him here in Tucson."

His Sunday afternoon Piano and Friends concert is already sold out, but tickets are still available for the Saturday evening concert at Leo Rich Theatre (as of press time). The Saturday concert follows a gala benefit dinner at the Manning House, at which Lang Lang's father, Guo-ren Lang, will play the traditional Chinese violin. Ticket buyers can go to both the dinner and the concert, or just the concert.

On the concert program are Schumann's Variations on the Name "Abegg," Op. 1; Haydn's Piano Sonata in C major, Hob. XVI/50; and Rachmaninov's Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 36. After an intermission, Lang Lang will continue with four Brahms pieces: Rhapsody in G minor, Op. 79, No. 2; Intermezzo in B-flat minor, Op. 117, No. 2; Intermezzo in D minor, Op. 119, No. 2; and Intermezzo in C major, Op. 119, No. 3. He will also play Chopin's Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 27, No. 2, and conclude with Reminiscences of "Don Juan" by Liszt, on themes of Mozart.

The dinner, to benefit the Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival endowment fund, begins with cocktails at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at the Manning House, 450 W. Paseo Redondo; dinner is served at 6:15. The concert follows at 8 at Leo Rich Theater in the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave. Joint tickets for the dinner and concert cost $125. Tickets for the concert only cost $15. For information call 577-3769 or visit the Web site at www.arizonachambermusic.org.

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