Olga Kern

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Olga Kern
Olga Kern Steinway.jpg
Olga Kern
Background information
Genres Classical
Instruments Piano
Labels Harmonia Mundi

Olga Kern (Russian: Ольга Керн) (born April 23, 1975 Moscow) is a Russian classical pianist who now lives in New York. She was the first woman in over 30 years to receive the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Gold Medal in the Eleventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, tying for first with Stanislav Ioudenitch.

Early life[edit]

Kern was born into a family of musicians with direct links to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. Her parents are both pianists, and she is related to the Russian socialite and memoirist Anna Petrovna Kern. She began studying piano at age five with Professor Evgeny Timakin at the Central Music School of Moscow and gave her first concert at age seven in the same city. She won her first international competition — the Concertino Praga Competition — at the age of 11 in the Czech Republic. At 17, she won first prize at the first Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition. While in school, she received an honorary scholarship from the President of Russia Boris Yeltsin.[1]


Early career[edit]

Kern continued her studies at the Moscow Conservatory with Professor Sergei Dorensky and continued her postgraduate studies at the same school. She also studied with Professor Boris Petrushansky at the Accademia Pianistica “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola.[1]

From 1989 to 1994, Kern held a scholarship with the “New Names” Foundation. Through them, she performed for Icelandic president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and at the United Nations. In 1991, she performed for Mikhail Gorbachev and Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu as part of the “Wave 2000” festival.

Van Cliburn International Piano Competition[edit]

A laureate of competitions in Europe and Asia, Kern came to international prominence when she became the first woman in over thirty years to receive the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Gold Medal in the Eleventh Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June 2001. Subsequently, Kern performed in Van Cliburn’s honor at the Kennedy Center Honors and at the White House for George W. Bush. She appears in three documentaries about the competition: Playing on the Edge (2001), They Came to Play (2008), and The Cliburn: 50 Years of Gold. An additional documentary was made about Kern following the 2001 Van Cliburn competition, titled Olga’s Journey (2003).[2]

Select Appearances[edit]

Kern has given solo recitals and appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, London’s Royal Albert Hall, Symphony Hall in Osaka, the Salzburger Festspielhaus, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Zurich’s Tonhalle, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Munich’s Gasteig, and the Tonhalle Düsseldorf. the Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, the Milan Conservatory “Giuseppe Verdi,” the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, the Rudolfinum in Prague, Cadogan Hall in London, Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the Grande Auditorio Culturgest in Lisbon, and Madrid’s National Auditorium of Music.[3]

Orchestral and Solo Appearances[edit]

The Americas[edit]

Kern has performed in all but one of the 50 United States, including appearances with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Houston Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Nashville Symphony,the New Mexico Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Select Canadian appearances include the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. She has also given solo recitals across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In South America, Kern has performed in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and Chile.


In her native Russia, she has appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras and given recitals throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union. This includes the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra, the National Philharmonic of Russia, the Moscow Virtuosi, and the Moscow State Chamber Orchestra.

Kern is a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences’s Division of the Arts.


Across Europe, she has performed with The Proms in London, La Scala Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the Stuttgart Staatsorchester, the Essen Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Georgian Chamber Orchestra. She has also appeared in cities such as Belgrade, Zagreb, Warsaw, Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Bolzano, and Helsingborg.[4][5]

Africa and the Middle East[edit]

Kern has given concerts coast to coast in Africa, including performances with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Morocco, and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. In Asia, she has appeared with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the China National Symphony Orchestra, and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra. She has also given recitals in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel.

Kern was artistic director of the Cape Town Summer Festival from 2006 to 2011.[6]


Kern has appeared in music festivals including the Ravinia Festival, Festival Casals in Puerto Rico, St. Petersburg’s White Nights Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, the Interlochen Festival, the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, the Bad Kissingen Festival, the Ohrid Summer Festival, the Sangat Chamber Music Festival, and the Colorado Music Festival. Further festival appearances have taken place in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Mexico, Turkey, Switzerland, Denmark, Poland, and South Africa.


Kern has worked with such conductors as Valery Gergiev, Leonard Slatkin, Vladimir Spivakov, Manfred Honeck, Christoph Eschenbach, James Conlon, Antoni Wit, Pinchas Zukerman, James DePreist, Marin Alsop, Michael Plasson, Hans Graf, Alexander Lazarev, Vassily Sinaisky, Peter Oundjian, Cristian Mandeal, Zdeněk Mácal, Jaap van Zweden, Giancarlo Guerrero, and Constantine Orbelian.

In 2012 she toured North America with violinist Vladimir Spivakov, playing a chamber music program. The following year, in celebration of the 140th anniversary of Rachmaninoff’s birth, she toured and played all four of the composer’s concerti, plus his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with Leonard Slatkin and the Orchestre National de Lyon. The same program was reprised with orchestras in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Colorado, Arizona, and Warsaw.[7] She has given recitals with such artists as Kathleen Battle and Renée Fleming. She has also collaborated with the Takács Quartet and cellist David Finckel.

In 2012, she was invited by Steven Spielberg to perform for the Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles.[8] In 2014, Kern inaugurated a new hall for the Van Cliburn Foundation in Fort Worth.[9]

In 2014, Kern became a Steinway & Sons exclusive artist.[5]


In 2012, Kern established the “Aspiration” foundation with her brother, the conductor, composer, and teacher Vladimir Kern. The aim of the foundation is to provide financial and artistic assistance to developing young musicians throughout the World.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Kern, until recently, lived in New York City with her son, Vladislav Kern, who studies piano at Juilliard’s Pre-College School.


  • 1986: Concertino Praga International Piano Competition (Prague)
  • 1993: Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition (Moscow)
  • 1996: Viotti International Piano Competition (Vercelli, Italy)
  • 1996: Unisa International Piano Competition (Pretoria, South Africa)
  • 1999: Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competition (Seregno, Italy)
  • 1999: Beijing International Piano Competition (Beijing)
  • 1999: Dino Ciani International Piano Competition (Milan)
  • 2000: Pinerolo International Piano Competition (Pinerolo, Italy)
  • 2000: Cantu International Piano Competition (Cantu, Italy)
  • 2000: Hamamatsu International Piano Competition (Hamamatsu, Japan)
  • 2001: Morocco International Piano Competition (Casablanca)
  • 2001: Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (Fort Worth, TX)


  • 2012: Rachmaninoff: Cello Sonata (with Sol Gabetta) — Sony Classical
  • 2011: Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg — Decca DVD
  • 2010: Chopin: Piano Sonatas 2 & 3 — Harmonia Mundi
  • 2010: They Came to Play — Docurama Films DVD
  • 2007: Brahms: Variations Op. 21, 24, 35 — Harmonia Mundi
  • 2006: Rachmaninoff: Transcriptions; Corelli Variations — Harmonia Mundi
  • 2006: Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 — Harmonia Mundi
  • 2005: Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata No. 2; Balakirev: Islamey — Harmonia Mundi
  • 2003: Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 — Harmonia Mundi
  • 2001: Gold Medalist: 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition — Harmonia Mundi
  • 2001: The Cliburn: Playing on the Edge — Peter Rosen Productions DVD


External links[edit]