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Olga Kern to play Beethoven, Gerswhin at KiMo benefit

Olga Kern

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Russian-American pianist Olga Kern will return to Albuquerque on Oct. 25 to play at a benefit for the KiMo Foundation.

Kern will perform an intimate program of Beethoven (2020 marks the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth), Gershwin and music by Russian composers, most likely Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky, Kern said in a telephone interview from New York.

“I don’t want to say exactly what I’m playing, because I love to talk about the pieces,” she said.

The concert will be structured as though the pianist were playing a recital in someone’s home. This is do-able because the The KiMo has 650 seats. Popejoy Hall, where the majority of Kern’s local concerts are staged, has 1,985 seats.

“For me, it was a chance to do a special recital, ” Kern said, noting that the KiMo venue allows a more intimate experience.

Organizers at Heritage Hotels, a sponsor of the Olga Kern International Piano Competition, asked the pianist to perform the benefit. The concert will occur two days before the start of the contest. All proceeds will go to cover funding gaps for repairs and building maintenance.

Now in its second year, the Olga Kern International Piano Competition runs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3, at both the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Popejoy Hall.

This year, 27 pianists juried into the contest come from across the globe, including Canada, South Korea, Russia, Italy, South Africa, Brazil, Slovenia and Ukraine. Three Americans qualified; none is from New Mexico. Kern is the artistic director and jury chair.

“I think this year the level is even higher than the first time,” she said. “Some are already winners from other competitions.”

Jewelry from Russian-American designer Alex Soldier will be available for sale in the KiMo lobby the evening of the performance. Twenty percent of the proceeds will go toward the piano competition.

“I’m wearing his jewelry for all of my concerts,” Kern said. Gwyneth Paltrow wore Soldier pieces in the series ‘The Politician,’ ” which is available on Netflix.

Kern recognizes the importances of maintaining the tradition of old theaters.

“I thought the KiMo is such a special landmark to Albuquerque,” she said, “and the city of Albuquerque is always helping the competition.”

The KiMo opened in 1927. Its architectural style was a flamboyant, short-lived fashion that fused the spirit of the Native American cultures with art deco.

Slated for the wrecking ball, the KiMo was saved in 1977, when the residents of Albuquerque voted to purchase the building. Since then, several stages of restoration have returned the theatre to its former glory. Today the KiMo Theatre is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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