Víkingur Ólafsson

Víkingur Ólafsson

Piano

• Born 1984

Editor's Choice

In 2017 the New York Times referred to Víkingur Ólafsson as "Iceland's Glenn Gould", and named this release one of their recordings of the year. A versatile pianist, his interest in contemporary music doesn't stop with established names like Glass. He has championed the piano concertos of several living Icelandic composers, as well as crossing genres to collaborate with Björk, Iceland's most successful musician to date. Olafsson's recording - his first for Deutsche Grammophon - features a selection from Glass' Etudes and Glassworks, including thoughtful, dreamy reworked versions. Having been recognised by Glass himself for his colourful and nuanced interpretations of these gorgeous, understated works, its no surprise that this album was embraced by critics and audiences alike. Hear what Olafsson had to say about the music of Philip Glass in our exclusive interview, recorded in October 2019.

Biography

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson began making his mark on the wider classical music world in the mid-2010s, after winning several major arts prizes in his homeland.

Ólafsson began his studies at home in Iceland, then earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Juilliard, where his primary teachers were Jerome Lowenthal and Robert McDonald. By 2017, he had premiered five piano concertos, working directly with composers such as Philip Glass, Daníel Bjarnason, and Haukur Tómasson, whose concerto he premiered during the 2016-2017 season. He has also collaborated on projects with visual artists such as Roman Signer and Lillevän, and musicians like Sayaka Shoji, Pekka Kuusisto, and Björk.

Ólafsson's recital programs are thoughtfully assembled, linking music by theme, historical context, tonality, or a combination of elements. That kind of care and insight led him to host a TV series about classical music for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service entitled Útúrdúr ("Out-of-tune," 2013-2014), and to him being named artistic director of Iceland's Vinterfest, taking over in 2016 from the music festival's founding director, Martin Fröst. Ólafsson is also founder and artistic director of the Reykjavik Midsummer Music festival. In November 2016, he signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, with his first release on the label -- Philip Glass: Piano Works -- appearing in January 2017. Prior to that, Ólafsson had recorded some of Stravinsky's solo piano music for the label, and he had released three albums on his own: two solo discs and Schubert's Winterreise with bass Kristinn Sigmundsson.

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