Víkingur Ólafsson
Piano

“breathtakingly brilliant pianist” (Gramophone, March 2017)

Contacts

Jasper Parrott +44 (0)20 7229 9166
Tuğçe Tez +44 (0)20 3725 9148
Alexandra Aimard +44 (0)20 3725 9139

Biography

Artistic Director: Reykjavik Midsummer Music
Artistic Director: Vinterfest 

 

Possessing a rare combination of passionate musicality, explosive virtuosity and intellectual curiosity, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has been heralded Iceland’s Glenn Gould” by the New York Times (Anthony Tommasini, August 2017). Before lighting up the international scene in 2016, Víkingur won all the major prizes in his native country, including the Order of the Falcon, four Musician of the Year prizes at the Icelandic Music Awards, and the Icelandic Optimism Prize. 

In 2016 Víkingur signed as an exclusive recording artist to Deutsche Grammophon, with his debut album of Philip Glass’s Etudes in January 2017 a global critical and public success: “breathtakingly brilliant pianist” (Gramophone). Prior to this he founded his own record label, Dirrindí, releasing three albums. Víkingur’s anticipated next recording for Deutsche Grammophon – featuring the piano works of Bach – will be released in 2018. 

Artistic Director: Reykjavik Midsummer Music
Artistic Director: Vinterfest 

 

Possessing a rare combination of passionate musicality, explosive virtuosity and intellectual curiosity, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has been heralded Iceland’s Glenn Gould” by the New York Times (Anthony Tommasini, August 2017). Before lighting up the international scene in 2016, Víkingur won all the major prizes in his native country, including the Order of the Falcon, four Musician of the Year prizes at the Icelandic Music Awards, and the Icelandic Optimism Prize. 

In 2016 Víkingur signed as an exclusive recording artist to Deutsche Grammophon, with his debut album of Philip Glass’s Etudes in January 2017 a global critical and public success: “breathtakingly brilliant pianist” (Gramophone). Prior to this he founded his own record label, Dirrindí, releasing three albums. Víkingur’s anticipated next recording for Deutsche Grammophon – featuring the piano works of Bach – will be released in 2018. 

A true artist of the 21st century, Víkingur islaudedfor his ability to approach music from a fresh and original angle, whether through interpretation – (“Like Gould, Ólafsson possesses that rare gift of illuminating a familiar work in unexpected ways, revealing hidden depths and drawing out its best qualities”- Gramophone); original programming (“few musicians match Ólafsson for creative flair - BBC Music Magazine) or curating: Víkingur is currently Artistic Director of three festivals: Vinterfest in Sweden; the award winning Reykjavík Midsummer Music (of which he is also the founder); and the Icelandic Weekend at Liepaja Great Amber Hall in Latvia. 

At home in new music, Víkingur has premiered five piano concertos to date and worked with composers including Philip Glass, Mark Simpson and Daníel Bjarnason. In 2016-17, Víkingur premiered Haukur Tómasson’s new piano concerto with NDR Elbphilhamonie Orchester and Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen. 

Víkingur’s 2017/18 season includes performances with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Pablo Heras-Casado), Konzerthausorchester Berlin (Michael Sanderling), NHK Symphony Orchestra (Vladimir Ashkenazy), the Ulster Orchestra (Rafael Payare) and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (Kristjan Järvi). He tours with Daníel Bjarnason and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as well as the Turku Philharmonic, while in recital he makes his debut at Rheingau Musik Festival, MITO SettembreMusica in Milan, Kölner Philharmonie and the International Piano Series in London. He also opens the new season of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and returns to Konzerthaus in Vienna. 

Away from the concert stage, Víkingur is the driving force behind numerous innovative musical projects. He convinced the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service to commission the classical music television series, Útúrdúr (Out-of-tune), which he presented and which was broadcast to unanimous critical and public acclaim. 

Víkingur grew up in Iceland where he studied with Erla Stefánsdóttir and Peter Máté. He studied further with Ann Schein and holds Bachelor and Master degrees from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Jerome Lowenthal and Robert McDonald.

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Contacts

Jasper Parrott +44 (0)20 7229 9166
Tuğçe Tez +44 (0)20 3725 9148
Alexandra Aimard +44 (0)20 3725 9139

Reviews

“Ólafsson’s ability to paint with a thousand colours is magnificent” (International Piano, Sep-Oct 2017)

The recital was a complete show of mastery and virtuosity.” ***** (Bachtrack, June 2017)

“Like Gould, Ólafsson possesses that rare gift of illuminating a familiar work in unexpected ways, revealing hidden depths and drawing out its best qualities ... breathtakingly brilliant pianist.” (Gramophone, March 2017)

“Ólafsson’s ability to paint with a thousand colours is magnificent” (International Piano, Sep-Oct 2017)

The recital was a complete show of mastery and virtuosity.” ***** (Bachtrack, June 2017)

“Like Gould, Ólafsson possesses that rare gift of illuminating a familiar work in unexpected ways, revealing hidden depths and drawing out its best qualities.....breathtakingly brilliant pianist.” (Gramophone, March 2017)

“Volcanic temperament, great virtuosity, a taste for challenges.” (Le Monde, February 2017)

“The celebrated shooting star Víkingur Ólafsson made his debut with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and excelled with his sensitive and extremely virtuosic playing.” (Bachtrack, February 2017)

“With the world premiere of Haukur Tómasson's second piano concerto, the 32-year-old had the high tones sparkling like water, which drifted from icicles in the sunlight... and bewitched the audience with precision playing of the highest order” (Hamburger Morgenpost, February 2017)

“Víkingur Ólafsson, for whom the work is written, possesses the authority, precision and clarity of contour required by the vertiginous solo part.” (Diapason, February 2017)

“Throughout, Ólafsson kept Glass' multi-layered textures crystal clear and immediate, with a bright, brilliant tone. [...] It proved Ólafsson to be a daring and unique artist.” (Bachtrack, February 2017)

“This is, frankly, one of the best single discs of Glass piano music I've ever heard, with a full spectrum of dynamics heard along with both personal utterances and works of true grandeur ... This selection ... by the 33-year old pianist from Iceland is quite stunning in its way. Everything about this selection--choice of repertoire, dynamic level, performance--is exquisite. This is Glass minimalism that even a hostile Ravel and Debussy-lover could love.” (Buffalo News, February 2017)

“With his interpretation of the piano etudes of Philip Glass, the 32-year-old musician achieves nothing less than a pianistic masterpiece of deep emotions and overwhelming force ... With his delicate and sensitive touch, great warmth of sound and meticulous layering of sound and patterns, Ólafsson brings exciting life to the etudes.” (Klassikakzente.de, February 2017)

“Volcanic temperament, great virtuosity, a taste for challenges.” (Le Monde, February 2017) 

“Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has found the perfect blend of playful free spirit and technical finesse.” (Concerti Magazine, January 2017)

“... Olafsson ruminative and fiercely attacking by turns (and his thumbs must be among the most elastic in the business), taking self-possessed ownership of a work which remains bitty, for all its thematic unity ... Olafsson gave us a delightful encore in the shape of a miniature by Jean-Philippe Rameau.” ***** (Birmingham Post, March 2016)

“few musicians match Olafson for creative flair” (BBC Music Magazine, February 2016)

“Olafsson succeeded superbly in one of the best Belfast performances of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto in recent years.” (Belfast Telegraph, October 2015)

“A young pianist with an unbelievably nuanced touch” (Badische Zeitung, October 2015)

“The remarkable Vikingur Olafsson found sonic grandeur and excitement in Glass’ Étude No 6 and even more in No 14, which he ended in a stonking accelerando.” (Richard Morrison, The Times, May 2015)

“Best of the bunch was Icelandic pianist Vikingur Ólafsson. He played the blizzard of scales in Phillip Glass’ Etude No 13 with amazing virtuosity, and gave the still quietness of Etude No 5 a monumental, rapt intensity.” (The Telegraph, April 2015)

“...the birds are "revelatory": Ólafsson conveys swinging rhythms, dialogues, flutter of wings; the songs pierce through the darkness like rays of light, hieroglyphic traces of joy and mystery. And every appearance, whether of gentle chirping or a flash of lightning, is illuminated in Ólafsson's crystal clear touch, as he conveys the vast, mellow harmonic environments in which Messiaen frames each bird.” (Gian Mario Benzing, Corriere della Sera, November 2014)

“...he possesses a poet's soul, underscored by a sense of artful showmanship always a pleasure to watch. After the famous timpani-roll introduction, Ólafsson immediately attacked his opening flourish that cracks like sea ice in an Arctic fjord. His thundering to the bottom of the keyboard during the Allegro molto moderato also provided the first taste of his bravura. He paced his delivery -- always held back just slightly -- until seeming to unleash new reservoirs of power during his breathtaking cadenza. He also displayed melting lyricism during the Adagio. Runs rippled like babbling brooks; luminous single notes in the section's theme rang like bells. The finale Allegro moderato with its ebullient folk-song-inspired theme was executed with rhythmic vitality” (Holly Harris, Winnipeg Free Press, November 2014)

“Splendid pianist” (The New York Times, April 2013)

“Iceland's rising star of a pianist” (The Times, May 2011)

“Born to play the piano” (The New York Sun, April 2008)