"An absolute whiz at the piano"
"Call it star quality - music likes Kern, the way the camera liked Garbo"
With a vivid onstage presence, dazzling technique, and keen musicianship, pianist Olga Kern is widely recognized as one of the great artists of her generation, captivating audiences and critics alike. She was born into a family of musicians and began studying piano at the age of five. At seventeen, she was awarded first prize at the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition, and in 2001, she launched her U.S. career, winning a historic Gold Medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition—the only woman in the last 50 years to do so.
A Steinway Artist, Olga is a laureate of several international competitions. In 2016 she was Jury Chairman of both Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition and the first Olga Kern International Piano Competition, where she also holds the title of Artistic Director. In December 2021, Olga was Jury Chairman of the 1st Chopin Animato International Piano competition in Paris, France. In coming seasons, she will continue to serve on the juries of several high-level competitions. Olga frequently gives masterclasses and since 2017 has served on the piano faculty of the Manhattan School of Music. Also in 2017, Olga received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (New York City). In 2019, she was appointed the Connie & Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music at the Virginia Arts Festival.
Olga has performed with many prominent orchestras, including the St. Louis Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Detroit Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.), as well as Czech Philharmonic, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Pittsburgh Symphony, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Iceland Symphony, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony Orchestra, and Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. She was also a featured soloist on U.S. tours with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in 2018 and 2022, and during the 2017–2018 season, she served as Artist in Residence at the San Antonio Symphony. Highlights of the 2021–2022 season included performances with the Austin Symphony, Palm Beach Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Santa Rosa Symphony, Greensboro Symphony, Madison Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra, and Academia Teatro alla Scala. She appeared as a soloist on a U.S. tour with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and performed recitals in Savannah, Sunriver, Huntsville, Fort Worth, Carmel, and Minneapolis, as well as in Portugal, Poland, and Sweden. In the 2022–2023 season, she appeared with the Dallas Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria, Ireland’s National Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, and in recitals in and around San Francisco. In the 2023–2024 season, she performs Rachmaninoff’s four piano concertos and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with the Austin Symphony, appears with the Czech Philharmonic on a nation-wide telecast, and tours South Africa and Asia.
In 2012, Olga established the Kern Foundation “Aspiration,” which supports talented musicians around the world.
Olga’s discography includes a Harmonia Mundi recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Christopher Seaman; her Grammy-nominated disc of Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations and other transcriptions; and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit. Other notable releases include Chopin’s Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3, and SONY’s release of the Rachmaninoff Sonata for Cello and Piano with Sol Gabetta. Olga released a new CD in 2022 on the Delos label of Brahms and Shostakovich quintets with the Dalí Quartet.
She is featured in award-winning documentaries about the 2001 Cliburn Competition: The Cliburn: Playing on the Edge, They Came to Play, and Olga’s Journey.