MISHA DICHTER is everything but a conductor. He's a tennis player, jogger, former California surfer, artist, writer, star concert pianist, duo pianist with his wife Cipa and a probable favorite here when he takes on the intricacies of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor Thursday and Friday with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Born in Shanghai of Polish parents who fled Europe during World War II and came to Los Angeles when he was 2, Dichter turns 46 Friday. He is playing at what he hopes is only the mid-point of a long career composed now of 100-concert years and 14-hour practice days.
"I don't worry so much about the effects of age as other kinds of musicians might," he told one interviewer, mentioning Rubenstein playing in his 90s and Horowitz playing in his 80s. "I'd like to be known as the only instrumentalist who has no plans to become a conductor."
Dichter last performed with the BSO almost four years ago. He has been playing a dozen recitals a year with Cipa, a Brazilian pianist he met on tour and later married after he won the silver medal in the 1966 international Tchaikovsky competition and began his international career.
His 1991-92 schedule includes two New York recitals, one of them featuring Beethoven and Schubert, among his favorites. He has said that after he first heard the later works of Beethoven and Schubert, that music became "my first love," although many fans know him for his recording of the complete cycle of Liszt's 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies.
The New Yorker, who likes to run four miles a day, recently finished his 24th consecutive summer at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago and his 17th year at the Aspen Festival.
Two Carnegie Hall recitals in 1990 marked the 30th anniversary of his first public performance.
At the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Dichter plays a piece his good friend, BSO conductor David Zinman, feels "is, without a doubt, his most powerful piano concerto; I personally like it even more than his more famous 'Emperor Concerto.' "
Beethoven performed the premiere of his third concerto on April 5, 1803. Though the routine was to play from printed music, the composer had written little down ("a few Egyptian hieroglyphics," said his page turner) and played mostly from memory. The entire concert was almost six hours, the ticket prices were high and the press was unimpressed.
History since has been kinder.
Other works on the program are Beethoven's "Consecration of the House Overture" and Barber's "First Essay for Orchestra" and "Symphony No. 1." The concerts Thursday and Friday begin 8:15 p.m. Call 783-8000 for more information.