Russian-American pianist Olga Kern comes from a long line of musicians. Her great-great-grandmother was a mezzo-soprano, her mother a pianist and professor at the Moscow Conservatory, and the family counts among its lineage the great composers Sergei Rachmaninoff and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
At one point during her pregnancy with Olga, her mother was constantly rehearsing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, playing the dramatic, difficult piece again and again as her baby kicked in her womb. Many years later, when Olga was 15 and herself began to study and rehearse the same concerto, it seemed eerily familiar to her. Music, literally, was in her blood.
That immediate, electric connection to music marks the performances of this extraordinary artist, one of the elite handful of great pianists who have claimed the Gold Medal in the legendary Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Her talent is unmistakable, but she has a core of inner strength that has sustained her during a life that has sometimes been marked by struggle. She first tried for the Van Cliburn in 1997, traveling from Russia to Fort Worth with all her hopes riding on the trip, only to be eliminated in the preliminary rounds. When she returned to Moscow, life was hard; newly divorced, she found herself a single mother with an infant to support—could she sustain a music career? Abandoning sleep, practicing around the clock while caring for her baby, she worked and worked. Finally, in 2001, she returned to the Van Cliburn competition, and to triumph. Playing the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3, she mesmerized the audience and the competition jury.
She went on to a recital at Carnegie Hall, winning rave reviews including The New York Times, and the rest, as they say, is history. Olga Kern is acknowledged as one of the greatest pianists performing today—and this great artist has now formed an alliance with the Virginia Arts Festival, curating the Festival’s chamber music programming and kicking off her 2019 Festival season with a solo recital at the TCC Roper Performing Arts Center on April 16. Bringing her flair for the dramatic, her towering technique, and the passion that has guided her life from hardship to the pinnacle of success, she will perform music by Lizst, Schumann, Beethoven, and Scarlatti—an extraordinary opportunity for music lovers to hear a master at the peak of her career.