Pianist Conrad Tao does not recall beginning professional lessons at 3 1/2 years old.
If you go Rising Stars Perform Tchaikovsky Concertos with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Where: The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda When: 8 p.m. Saturday Info: $25 to $55; 410-783-8000; 877-276-1444
"My earliest memory is my first public recital," the 16-year old said. "I was four years old and really excited." With a repertoire of 15 short pieces, the young boy, not yet ready for kindergarten, needed a printout of the program because he couldn't remember the order.
Violinist Sirena Huang, on the other hand, does remember beginning her musical studies at 4, as well as her orchestra solo debut with the National Taiwan Symphony when she was a 9-year-old.
"I think that playing the violin helps me to get across the message that music is something so powerful and [something] that I can share with everyone," Sirena, also 16, said.
Both Conrad and Sirena are making their debuts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Saturday evening in the Rising Stars Perform Tchaikovsky Concertos at the Music Center at Strathmore. In a program focusing on two of the greatest concertos for which the composer is known, Conrad will perform the iconic Piano Concerto No. 1 while Sirena plays the Violin Concerto. Tchaikovsky's summer fantasia, "Capriccio italien" opens the celebration under the baton of BSO Assistant Principal Viola Christian Colberg.
"I first played [the Violin Concerto] when I was 12 or 13," the young and effervescent Sirena said. "The piece itself is really hard, but I think throughout the years, I have improved technically and musically. Now, when I look back at this place, I can play at a completely different level."
That new level of performance will be necessary in such a complex piece of rapid scale passages and treacherous double-stops.
Conrad's take on the Piano Concerto No. 1 is a high respect for a piano piece so well known and so often performed.
"[This] is one of the more technically difficult pieces out there [and] it requires stamina, he said of a first movement that is 20 to 25 minutes long. "For me, the most important thing is to make the piece cohesive, to keep it from becoming fragmented."
Both Conrad and Sirena -- each with more professional performances under their belts than many musicians who have been working decades at their crafts -- are up to the challenges presented by the great Russian composer. And both regard their musicianship in just about the same way.
"I can't imagine my life without playing the violin. I love it" Sirena said.
Conrad echoes that sentiment, noting, "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't love it. The [piano] is a part of my life."