Pianist conquers Bach

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  • | 12:16 p.m. March 30, 2011
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Robert Schumann and Sergei Rachmaninoff, two immortal pianists of their day, were also the composers of reams of music that remain highlighted in piano repertoire.

Friday evening, March 25, Russian pianist Olga Kern played in Tiedtke Hall at Rollins College for the Visiting Artist series of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park.

Mme. Kern, a woman of extraordinary blond good looks, brought an audible gasp from her audience when she stepped on stage.

Kern more than earned her performing laurels in her first selection, “Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann,” by Clara Schumann.

Schumann’s wife Clara, a great pianist of her era, composed these variations in honor of her husband’s 43rd birthday. The work gives ample proof of Clara’s musical dimensions and power to invent. That Clara’s music may seem to resemble Robert’s is not unexpected and takes nothing away from her own compositional skills.

Husband Robert then took over with his famous “Carnaval, Op. 9” while breathtaking pianist Kern made child’s play of myriad pianistic pitfalls along the way. Kern displayed humor, passion, power and always-melting sound, including judicious dynamic contrasts.

Post intermission, Sergei Rachmaninoff ‘s “Piano Sonata No. 2” in b-flat minor displayed the Russian composer’s pianistic demands to great effect, leaving this commentator in awe of Mme. Kern, but wishing for more compositional gold in Rachmaninoff.

“Scriabin Sonata No. 9 in F” comes across as inconsequential in its moody ramblings, which suggest to me that the composer has lost his way and cannot find it again.

Horowitz-sound-alike Olga Kern’s program concluded with Mily Balakirev’s “Islamey: Oriental Fantasy,” a showpiece that allowed the pianist to say farewell with a fun-filled walloping helping of her enormous virtuosic talent.