While the renowned Russian conductor Dima Slobodeniouk makes his Baltimore Symphony Orchestra debut leading pianist Simon Trpceski in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4 on Saturday night at Strathmore, the latter has performed many times with the orchestra and recently met and worked with the maestro as well. Good thing, too -- this piano masterwork is no walk on the beach.

"Dima and I just worked together nine days ago with the Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo," said Trpceski. "That was our first collaboration, and this was good preparation for the concert here. "This [work] is a big challenge, so I am very glad we did it once before."

Trpceski, who has been praised not only for his impeccable technique and delicate expression but also for his warm personality and commitment to strengthening the cultural image of his native Macedonia, concedes that from a technical point of view, the concerto is complicated. In addition to its metrical changes and syncopation, there is also a whole story and color to the sound.

Indeed, Rachmaninoff's Fourth Piano Concerto is a skillfully blended masterwork of both Russian and American musical influences. The composer began working on the piece in 1917 while in Russia, but it was not completed until 1926 in America, where Rachmaninoff and his family were living. Here, the Russian composer was deeply influenced by the American jazz musicians of the day. And it was actually George Gershwin who moved him in the direction of blueslike themes.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4
» Where: Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
» When: 8 p.m. Saturday
» Info: $29 to $91; 410-783-8000; bsomusic.org

"Many people think that [Rachmaninoff] was just a very impassioned composer with intense emotion," Trpceski continued. "But I believe this concerto reveals a different side to him ... [the] music can be very dancelike, very light, even humorous."

And unlike his first three concertos, Rachmaninoff's Fourth reveals a very unique style of lyricism even as it captures a sense of freedom, surprise and color.

"This might sound very immodest, but I want [people] to feel the very natural dimension of my personality when I'm [playing]; to accept the positive vibration onstage. ... I hope people will feel my energy, which I hope will project well in the hall," Trpceski noted.

Also on the program is another piece of Rachmaninoff's, "The Rock," and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11.