Olga Kern: SF Concert Review, 02/12/2017

I attended a concert by pianist Olga Kern in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, 02/12/2017. I had never heard her in a live performance before, and I knew that she shared the first prize at the Van Cliburn competition in 2001. As such, I knew that I was in for a treat.

Ms. Kern has an amazing stage presence. She appeared in a gorgeous full-length gown, and she was welcomed by a large audience. Many of the attendees were members of San Francisco’s Russian community.

Ms. Kern’s strong point is that she is what I call a “Bravura Pianist”. She is a powerful performer, and selections that feature a lot of Fortissimos are seemingly composed for her!

Olga Kern’s program began with three sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. I enjoyed the second of these best, because it was more contemplative, and it had fewer long runs. It was easier for me to listen for the spaces between the notes.

The featured selection during the first half of the concert was Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata. While Ms. Kern’s playing was filled with the great emotion in this music, I missed hearing any genuine pianissimos. For me, the dynamics that I heard were mostly mezzo Forte and Fortissimo. Even in the second movement, I found the quiet passages to be too loud, and I sat upstairs, and not on the main floor.

The second half of the concert started with a contemporary composition by Russian composer Boris Frenksteyn. I liked this piece a lot, particularly the homage to Grieg.

The technical aspects of Schumann’s Kinderszenen were very good. Personally, I was looking for slightly longer pauses between the scenes, and also I would have enjoyed dynamics that were quieter.

I admit that I am not a fan of the music of Franz Liszt, so I was not amused by the Reminiscences of Don Juan. I found this music to be really shallow, other than the familiar Mozart themes from his opera.

I look forward to another concert by Ms. Kern, in particular if the next one contains more music by Russian composers.


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