Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Olga Kern Plays Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra

Published Thursday, January 2, 2020 10:00 am

Van Cliburn gold medalist Olga Kern returns to Toledo to perform with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra (TSO) on Friday, January 17 and Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 8 PM at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle Theater. Kern will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, a work known to be a true testament of musical technicality and artistry that was featured in the Oscar-winning movie Shine (1996).

“Rachmaninoff’s Third is considered to be the Mt. Everest of piano concertos,” says Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony. “It’s earned the reputation as one of the most beautiful, virtuosic, and technically challenging works ever written. It’s also one of those pieces that has fascinated me since I was a kid. I’ve probably listened to it a thousand times and am still inspired by moments that I’ve never noticed before. Olga Kern is an internationally renowned pianist, and I can’t wait to hear her interpretation of this magnificent work.”

The program opens with Italian composer Francesco Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso in G Minor, featuring the TSO’s Concertmaster Kirk Toth on violin. Geminiani’s baroque Concerto Grosso is an arrangement of a Violin Sonata composed by his teacher, Arcangelo Corelli that was written for a group of solo instruments to be accompanied by the entire orchestra.

The second piece on the program is Concerto for Orchestra, a five-movement work written by American composer Jennifer Higdon that was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2002. Like Geminiani, Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra was inspired by various musicians and sections of the orchestra. Each movement highlights principal players, groups of players, and the entire ensemble.

“This program is all about highlighting the virtuosity of the orchestra and the soloist,” says Merwin Siu, Artistic Administrator for the TSO. “The first half of the program features two TSO premieres, both concertos that showcase our musicians. In the second half, we switch gears and give our soloist a chance to shine. ‘Rach 3’ is incredibly challenging, brilliant, and the perfect climax to conclude the evening.”

Russian-American pianist Olga Kern is regarded as one of her generation’s great pianists. In 2001, Kern became the first woman in over thirty years to win the Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. A Steinway Artist and First Prize winner of the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at the age of seventeen, Kern makes her third appearance with the TSO to perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, written in 1909.

The first movement opens with a subtle, quiet dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra that eventually transforms into a wave of contrasting themes. The expressive second movement is the calm before the storm. It begins with slow, song-like passages that later become more turbulent. The finale, which ties the entire work together by referencing the first and second movements, is full of intricate passagework, beautiful melodies, and showcases the pianist’s virtuosity and skill. The TSO last performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor with former Music Director Stefan Sanderling and pianist Phillipe Bianconi in 2013.

Two performances of Rachmaninoff’s Third will take place on Friday, January 17 and Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 8 PM at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle Theater. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online at, by calling 419.246.8000, or by stopping by the box office at 1838 Parkwood Avenue.

For more information, please contact Felecia Kanney, Director of Marketing for the Toledo Symphony at


Russian-American pianist Olga Kern is now recognized as one of her generation's great pianists. She jumpstarted her U.S. career with her historic Gold Medal win at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas as the first woman to do so in more than thirty years.

First prize winner of the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at seventeen, Ms. Kern is a laureate of many international competitions. In 2016 she served as Jury Chairman of both the Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition and the first Olga Kern International Piano Competition, where she also holds the title of Artistic Director. Ms. Kern frequently gives masterclasses and since September 2017 has served on the piano faculty of the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Additionally, Ms. Kern has been chosen as the Virginia Arts Festival’s new Connie & Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music, beginning with the 2019 season.

For the 2019-20 season, Kern will perform with the Allentown Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, New Mexico Philharmonic, and the New West Symphony, as well as appearing on United States Tour with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. She will appear in recitals in Orford, Sunriver, Fort Worth (Cliburn), Carmel, and San Francisco.

In recent seasons, Kern performed with the Moscow Philharmonic, Santa Fe Symphony, and the St. Louis Symphony, as well as opened the Pacific Symphony’s 2018-19 season. Kern was also a featured soloist for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra during the 2018-19 Tour. She also served as Artist in Residence for the San Antonio Symphony’s 2017-18 season and had her Chinese debut with the National Youth Orchestra of China tour. Ms. Kern opened the Baltimore Symphony’s 2015-2016 centennial season with Marin Alsop. Other season highlights included returns to the Royal Philharmonic with Pinchas Zukerman, Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice with Giancarlo Guerrero.

Ms. Kern's discography includes her Grammy Nominated recording of Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations and other transcriptions (2004), Brahms Variations (2007) and Chopin Piano Sonatas No. 2 and 3 (2010). She was featured in the award-winning documentary about the 2001 Cliburn Competition, Playing on the Edge.


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