Music competitions do pay off, many times leading to debuts with major American orchestras. Case in point is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's welcome to the Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin this Saturday at the Music Center at Strathmore.

"We have been looking forward to Denis Kozhukhin's BSO debut this weekend for several years now, particularly because of his relationship with music director Marin Alsop," said BSO's vice president of artistic operations, Matthew Spivey. "They first met when she was a judge at the 2010 Queen Elisabeth Competition, which he won. His performance of Brahms' stunning Second Piano Concerto will surely be an exciting collaboration."

That performance in Brussels propelled the young artist to recent concert highlights that include the complete cycle of Prokofiev Piano Concertos with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, as well as his debut at the City of London Festival in July 2012. Highlights of Kozhukhin's 2012-2013 season include performances with the Seattle Symphony, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Under the baton of Alsop on Saturday, Kozhukhin offers a poetic and sensitive interpretation of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2, a piece that took the composer three years to complete.

BSO Classical Concert: Lyrical Dvorak and Brahms
Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Info: $56 to $100; 410-783-8000;

The concert opens with Dvorak's brilliant Symphony No. 8, a piece he composed and orchestrated in just two and a half months, having completed it in 1889 in Bohemia. He dedicated this work "to the Bohemian Academy of Emperor Franz Joseph for the Encouragement of Arts and Literature, in thanks for my election."

Alsop needs no encouragement when it comes to both composer and his works. One of her first projects at the helm of the BSO was a recorded Dvorak cycle of Symphonies 6 through 9, the first of which featured Symphony No. 9, "From the New World," and Symphonic Variations. Of this 2008 release, BBC Music Magazine noted, "It is rare to be able to say that a performance forces one to listen to a work anew, but this is exactly what Alsop's reading achieves."