Pianist Kern to perform in next Artist Series concert

Elena Amesbury

Internationally known pianist Olga Kern will perform in the chapel Thursday, at 8:00 p.m. as part of the Lawrence Artist Series. Kern’s performance will include music by Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff and Liszt, among others.
The native Russian was born into a highly musical family – her various ancestors sang with Rachmaninoff and befriended Tchaikovsky – and started playing piano at age 5. She studied at the Moscow Central School, the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, and the Accademia Pianistica Incontri col Maestro in Italy. Her brilliant career-launching break occurred when she tied for first place in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001, at age 26.
The Van Cliburn competition is, as piano professor Anthony Padilla described, “the biggest competition on the face of the earth.” The competition was created in 1962 after American pianist Van Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow during the Cold War.
The Van Cliburn Web site describes the competition as “a living legacy to Van Cliburn’s commitment to aiding the development of young artists.” 2001 was the first year that shared awards were allowed in the competition, and Kern shared her gold with Uzbekistani Stanislav Ioudenitch. The bronze medal that year was also awarded to two people. Professor Padilla described Kern’s playing as “exquisite and nuanced.”
“She knows how to project her personality into her playing,” he said. “She’s a very free and physical player.”
Her gold medal became the start of an amazing career. Since the competition she has performed with the likes of the Boston Pops, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and at Carnegie Hall – twice, having been invited to play again 11 days after her first performance.
Also as a result of her win, Kern was signed by Harmonia Mundi, an international recording company which also has ties in Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.
Her program Thursday will include Mendelssohn’s “Variations srieuses” in D minor; the Rachmaninoff arrangment of Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor; Rachmaninoff’s “Morceaux de fantaisie,” Elegy in E flat minor, Prlude in C sharp minor, Mlodie in E major, Polichinelle in F sharp minor, and Srnade in B flat minor; and Liszt’s “Rminiscences de Don Juan.”
After she performs on Thursday, Kern will travel to Wausau, where she will perform downtown at the Grand Theatre March 12.
The concert at Lawrence will be at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8-9 for members of the Lawrence community, $15-17 for students, $17-19 for seniors, $20-22 for adults, and are available at the Lawrence box office or from the Lawrence Web site.