Baltimore Symphony Orchestra cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski takes a trip into the cello repertoire when he appears with the National Philharmonic at Strathmore on Sunday. Under the baton of guest conductor Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk, he performs Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme" back to back with Witold Lutoslawski's single-movement Cello Concerto.

This is a tall order, indeed, for any cellist, but for Skoraczewski it happens to be the first time he has played the latter composition and also the first time he has worked with the guest conductor.

"It's very interesting that these pieces are together and in the first half of the program," Skoraczewski noted. "It really showcases the incredibly different writing for cello and orchestra [occurring] 100 years apart [and] the two different sounds that can come out of me and the instrument."

Nonetheless, Skoraczewski welcomes the challenge, noting the importance of an open mind when performing Lutoslawski's 1970 work written in the avant-garde, post-serial style. The ties that bind these two pieces (Tchaikovsky's typical of the Baroque style, simple, with a predominance of strings) are in tribute to the singular spirit of the 20th-century Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, arguably the greatest cellist of the second half of the 20th century and one of the greatest of all time. Known not just for his virtuosic technique and illuminating interpretation, he, more than any cellist before and since, commissioned countless new works for the instrument, which greatly enlarged the cello repertoire. Skoraczewski and thousands of cellists worldwide owe him an amazing debt of gratitude.

On stage
National Philharmonic Orchestra: Tchaikovsky's 'Variations on a Rococo Theme'
Where: Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Info: $28 to $81, children 7 to 17 free; 301-581-5100;

"He was the biggest star and teacher in the world," Skoraczewski continued. "And because of him, all these wonderful works have been written. We benefit tremendously in a wonderful way."

Skoraczewski's own repertoire embraces diversity in style and performance. His debut CD, "Cello Populus," is a varied collection of solo works from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Also on the program, by way of a second tribute to the melodious genius of Tchaikovsky, is his Symphony No. 4. This work, like the composer himself, is a multifaceted example of human emotion -- from tragedy to life-embracing exuberance.