Olga Kern and Conrad Tao: Program Notes: 9/22-24 cover

Olga Kern and Conrad Tao: Program Notes: 9/22-24


Olga Kern performs Rachmaninoff’s demonically delicious variations based on a virtuosic violin piece by Paganini. She is an electrifying Van Cliburn competition-winning pianist with a special gift that captures and captivates audiences the world over. Per The Washington Post: “Call it star quality—music loves Kern the way the camera liked Garbo.”
Tonight's program also includes the Carnival Overture, by Antonin Dvořák, a world premiere of Conrad Tao's I Got A Wiggle That I Just Can't Shake, and the hauntingly beautiful Pines of Rome - Respighi’s vivid love-letter to “The Eternal City.”
Preview Talk with host Alan Chapman included.
This is Part 2 of the Program Notes for Sept 2 2- 24. You'll be automatically linked to the next NoteStream at the end.
To begin with Part 1, please click here.
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.

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Olga Kern - Pianist

Olga Kern - Pianist

Russian-American pianist Olga Kern is now recognized as one of her generation’s great artists. With her vivid stage presence, passionately confident musicianship and extraordinary technique, the striking pianist continues to captivate fans and critics alike.

Kern was born into a family of musicians with direct links to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff and began studying piano at the age of 5. She jumpstarted her U.S. career with her historic Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas as the first woman to do so in more than 30 years.

Steinway Artist and First Prize Winner of the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at the age of 17, Kern is a laureate of many international competitions and tours throughout Russia, Europe, The United States, Japan, South Africa and South Korea.

The first Olga Kern International Piano Competition is announced to take place in Albuquerque, N.M. in autumn, 2016, where Kern will serve as artistic director and jury chair. Kern is a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Division of the Arts, as well as jury chairman of the 17th Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition in June 2016.

In the 2016-17 season, Kern will premiere her first American concerto, the Barber Piano Concerto, with the Saint Louis Symphony and Leonard Slatkin. She will also appear with the Colorado Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker and Copenhagen Philharmonic. Recital appearances include the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Virginia Arts Festival, Milan and Glasgow.

Kern opened the Baltimore Symphony’s 2015-16 centennial season with Marin Alsop. Other season highlights included returns to the Royal Philharmonic with Pinchas Zukerman, Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice with Giancarlo Guerrero, Rochester Philharmonic and San Antonio Symphony, a month-long tour of South Africa for concerts with the Cape and KwaZulu Natal philharmonics, an Israeli tour with the Israel Symphony, solo recitals at Sarasota’s Van Wezel Hall, New York’s 92nd Street Y and the University of Kansas’ Lied Center, and recitals with Renée Fleming in Carnegie Hall and Berkeley.

In concert with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

In recent seasons, Kern has performed with Tokyo’s NHK Symphony, Orchestre National De Lyon, Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, the symphonies of Detroit for Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 and 3, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Nashville, Colorado, Madison and Austin, and gave recitals in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Louisville, and alongside Renée Fleming and Kathleen Battle.

Kern’s performance career has brought her to many of the world’s most important venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Salzburger Festspielhaus, La Scala in Milan, Tonhalle in Zurich and the Châtelet in Paris.

Kern’s discography includes Harmonia Mundi recordings of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Christopher Seaman (2003), her Grammy- nominated recording of Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations and other transcriptions (2004), a recital disk with works by Rachmaninoff and Balakirev (2005), Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit (2006), Brahms Variations (2007) and a 2010 release of Chopin Piano Sonatas No. 2 and 3 (2010).

Most recently, SONY released their recording of Kern performing the Rachmaninoff Sonata for Cello and Piano with cellist Sol Gabetta.

She was also featured in the award-winning documentary about the 2001 Cliburn Competition, Playing on the Edge, as well as Olga’s Journey, Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg and in They Came to Play.

In 2012, Kern and her brother, conductor and composer, Vladimir Kern, co-founded the “Aspiration” foundation whose objective is to provide financial and artistic assistance to musicians throughout the world.

Van Cliburn 2001


R. Douglas Sheldon

5 Columbus Circle @ 1790 Broadway, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10019

Olga Kern is a Steinway Artist.

Olga Kern records exclusively for Harmonia Mundi.

Olga Kern's dresses are designed by Alex Teih.


Conrad Tao - Guest Composer

Conrad Tao - Guest Composer

Conrad Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer, and has been dubbed a musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times, a “thoughtful and mature composer” by NPR and “ferociously talented” by TimeOut New York.

In June of 2011, the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars and the Department of Education named Tao a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts awarded him a YoungArts gold medal in music.

Later that year, Tao was named a Gilmore Young Artist, an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. In May of 2012, he was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.

During the 2015-16 season, Tao performed piano with the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Brazilian Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic, among others; he also performs recitals in Europe and throughout the United States with repertoire ranging from Bach to Frederic Rzewski to Rachmaninoff to Julia Wolfe.

Past notable symphonic engagements have included the San Francisco Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Toronto Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Detroit Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony and Nashville Symphony.

Tao maintains a close relationship with the Aspen Music Festival, and has appeared at the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Brevard Music Center, Ravinia Festival and Mostly Mozart Festival.

In June of 2013, Tao kicked off the inaugural UNPLAY Festival at the powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, which he curated and produced. The festival, designated a “critics’ pick” by TimeOut New York and hailed by The New York Times for its “clever organization” and “endlessly engaging” performances, featured Tao with guest artists performing a wide variety of new works.



Across three nights encompassing electroacoustic music, performance art, youth ensembles and much more, UNPLAY explored the fleeting ephemera of the Internet, the possibility of a 21st-century canon and music’s role in social activism and critique. That month, Tao, a Warner Classics recording artist, also released Voyages, his first full-length for the label, declared a “spiky debut” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross.

Of the album, NPR wrote: “Tao proves himself to be a musician of deep intellectual and emotional means—as the thoughtful programming on this album… proclaims.”

His next album, Pictures, which slots works by David Lang, Toru Takemitsu, Elliott Carter, and Tao himself alongside Mussorgsky’s familiar and beloved Pictures at an Exhibition, was released in October, 2015; The New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini called it “a fascinating album [by] a thoughtful artist and dynamic performer…played with enormous imagination, color and command.”

Tao’s career as composer has garnered eight consecutive ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and the Carlos Surinach Prize from BMI.

In the 2013-14 season, while serving as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s artist-in-residence, Tao premiered his orchestral composition, The world is very different now. Commissioned in observance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the work was described by The New York Times as “shapely and powerful.”

In 2016, Tao closes his residency in Dallas with a new work for the orchestra, Alice, to be premiered in June.

Most recently, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia commissioned a new work for piano, orchestra and electronics, “An Adjustment,” which received its premiere in September 2015 with Tao at the piano. The Philadelphia Inquirer declared the piece abundant in “compositional magic,” a “most imaginative [integration of] spiritual post- Romanticism and ‘90s club music.”

Tao was born in Urbana, Ill., in 1994. He has studied piano with Emilio del Rosario in Chicago and Yoheved Kaplinsky in New York, and composition with Christopher Theofanidis.

To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.