The visionary and pioneering Icelandic pianist, Víkingur Ólafsson, releases his debut album on Deutsche Grammophon of the Philip Glass Études, having been signed by the label as an exclusive recording artist.
The entrepreneurial soloist worked with the composer on the Études during a European tour, and he will be performing the iconic works in a number of forthcoming recitals. Ólafsson comments: “Each Étude allows the performer and listener to create his or her own personal space of reflection, while Glass seems to be exploring the very essence of his ideas. Like many others, I was taken by surprise when I first heard the last Étude, No. 20, that autumnal intermezzo which seems to come from another world entirely than its nineteen siblings, whose DNA have more obvious traits in common. I asked Mr. Glass about it, and he seemed as surprised by this work as I was. His answer has stayed with me: “I really don’t know, I just found myself out in space in that one.” And the music does indeed seem to defy gravity, floating from one tonality into another, gorgeous melodies appearing out of nowhere only to quickly disappear into the void.
Possessing a rare combination of passionate musicality, explosive virtuosity and intellectual curiosity, Víkingur Ólafsson is a household name in his native country. He has won all of Iceland’s major music awards, including four Musician of the Year prizes at the Icelandic Music Awards as well as the Icelandic Optimism Prize.
The multi-faceted Ólafsson is Artistic Director of Vinterfest in Sweden, and Artistic Director and Founder of Reykjavik Midsummer Music festival, as well as being an international soloist performing at the highest level. Since February 2016 he has taken over from Martin Fröst as Artistic Director of Vinterfest in Sweden, while continuing as Artistic Director and performer for the award-winning Reykjavík Midsummer Music, which he founded in 2012.
Ólafsson’s 2016/17 season includes performances with NDR Elbphilhamonie Orchester and Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen, a tour with Orkester Norden (Lawrence Foster) and concerts with Iceland Symphony Orchestra (Yan Pascal Tortelier) and MDR Sinfonieorchester (Kristjan Järvi). In recital he makes his debut at the Wiener Konzerthaus, Konzerthaus Berlin, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Louisiana Museum for Modern Art Denmark, and at La Folle Journée Festival in Nantes.
Ólafsson has premiered five piano concertos to date and worked with composers including Mark Simpson and Daníel Bjarnason, as well as Philip Glass. He has collaborated with leading artists from diverse fields, such as Roman Signer, Lillevan and Yann Malka, and appeared at festivals including Busoni and Transart (Bolzano), MITO SettembreMusica (Milano) and Nordic Cool (Washington DC). When it comes to his relationships with other musicians, Víkingur has worked with Sayaka Shoji, István Várdai, Martin Fröst, Pekka Kuusisto and Björk.
Away from the concert stage, Ólafsson is the driving force behind a number of innovative musical projects. The classical music television series, Útúrdúr (Out-of-tune), that he created and presented for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service in 2013-14, was broadcast to unanimous critical and public acclaim.
Ólafsson makes his debut in London’s International Piano Series on 15 November 2017.