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Vikingur Olafsson: Bio

"Iceland's rising star of a pianist" (Sunday Times)

"born to play piano" (New York Sun) 

"perfect continuity of thought" (Giornale della musica).

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 is lauded for 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 Orchestra, 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.

1 Debussy: La damoiselle elue, L. 62 - Prelude  
2 Rameau: Le Rappel des oiseaux  
3 Rameau: 6. Rigaudons 1, 2 & Double  
4 Rameau: Musette en rondeau  
5 Rameau: Tambourin  
6 Rameau: La Villageoise  
7 Rameau: Gigues en rondeau 1 & 2  
8 Debussy: Estampes, L. 100 - 3. Jardins sous la pluie  
9 Debussy: Children's Corner, L. 113 - 3. Serenade for the Doll  
10 Debussy: Children's Corner, L. 113 - 4. The Snow Is Dancing  
11 Rameau: Les tendres plaintes  
12 Rameau: Les tourbillons  
13 Rameau: L'entretien des Muses  
14 Debussy: Preludes / Book 1, L. 117 - 6. Des pas sur la neige  
15 Rameau: La joyeuse  
16 Rameau: Les Cyclopes  
17 Rameau, Olafsson: The Arts and the Hours  
18 Debussy: Preludes / Book 1, L. 117 - 8. La fille aux cheveux de lin  
19 Debussy: Preludes / Book 2, L. 123 - 8. Ondine  
20 Rameau: Cinquieme concert - 2. La Cupis  
21 Rameau: Quatrieme concert - 2. L'indiscrete  
22 Rameau: Quatrieme concert - 3. La Rameau  
23 Rameau: La Poule  
24 Rameau: L'Enharmonique  
25 Rameau: Menuets 1 & 2  
26 Rameau: Les Sauvages  
27 Rameau: L'Egyptienne  
28 Debussy: Images - Book 1, L. 110 - 2. Hommage a Rameau  
Debussy: La fille aux cheveux de lin, Preludes Op.1, No.8
The Arts and the Hours (Transcr. Olafsson)

Debussy has been with me as far back as I can remember, but my first encounter with the keyboard music of Rameau was Emil Gilels' 1951 recording of "Le rappel des oiseaux", which I came across during my student days in New York. I was immediately fascinated by the music and how well it lends itself to the modern piano, at least in Gilels' noble rendition, with its layered textures and light and shades. But it wasn't until the spring of 2019, as I waited (and waited and waited) for the birth of my first child that I finally had the chance, having cleared some weeks in my concert schedule, to sit down with all of Rameau's published keyboard works and read through every one of them. A world of wonder revealed itself: ingenious works of remarkable diversity, rarely programmed or recorded on the modern instrument.