Olga Kern is a pianist of distinction, yet her amazing musicianship is at the service of a deeper muse within the notes. Her musical background goes beyond childhood lessons. Her great-great-grandmother was a friend of Tchaikovsky, and her great-grandmother sang for Rachmaninoff. Kern plays an all-Russian program, and from the sweeping opening of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2, we hear a spirit in company with Richter and Horowitz. The disc also features the Morceaux de Fantasie, miniatures played with such artistry that you forget the pianist and hear the music. Kern reveals Taneyev’s powerful “Prelude & Fugue,” Liadov’s magical Musical Snuff Box and a Russian piece that even scared Liszt—Balakirev’s amazing Islamey. Don’t miss this 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medalist.