Víkingur Ólafsson (born 14 February 1984) is an Icelandic pianist.
He has performed with leading orchestras in Europe and America, including Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and with conductors including Thomas Adès, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Santtu-Matias Rouvali. He has won numerous awards for his playing, including Album of the Year at the 2019 BBC Music Magazine Awards for his ground-breaking album Johann Sebastian Bach.
Víkingur's album Philip Glass Piano Works saw him named “Iceland’s Glenn Gould” by the New York Times, "breathtakingly brilliant pianist" by Gramophone magazine, and Le Monde herald his "volcanic temperament, great virtuosity, taste for challenges."
In the 2019-20 season Víkingur will be artist-in-residence at Berlin Konzerthaus, with fourteen performances over eleven different projects, playing concertos by Thomas Adès, Robert Schumann, Daníel Bjarnason and Mozart, two solo recitals and chamber programmes with the likes of Martin Fröst and Florian Boesch.
Early life and education
Víkingur Ólafsson grew up in Reykjavík and started playing the piano at an early age under the tutelage of his mother, a piano teacher. He studied at the Juilliard School in New York, earning Bachelor's and Master's degrees under the supervision of Jerome Lowenthal and Robert McDonald. Víkingur also took lessons with Ann Schein.
Víkingur has given recitals across Japan, the USA and in European halls including the Berlin Philharmonie, London's Royal Albert Hall, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, Palau de la Música in Barcelona, and Flagey in Brussels.
In the 2019-20 season, Víkingur will give the French première of John Adams’ Piano Concerto No.2 with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and will perform the work with Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra – both with Adams conducting. He will also give concerts with Hallé Orchestra and Klaus Makela, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and Jaap van Zweden, Berlin Konzerthausorchester and Christoph Eschenbach, San Diego Symphony with Rafael Payare, Bergen International Festival with Ed Gardner and Iceland Symphony Orchestra with Daníel Bjarnason.
Víkingur has premiered six piano concertos by Icelandic composers—Snorri Sigfús Birgisson, Daníel Bjarnason, Haukur Tómasson, and Þórður Magnússon among them—as well as solo and chamber works by Atli Ingólfsson, Mark Simpson and Mark-Anthony Turnage. Víkingur has taken part in collaborative performances with Philip Glass (in Reykjavík, Gothenburg and London) and Björk, the latter taking place on the television programme Átta raddir, produced by Jónas Sen for RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
Víkingur released three albums on his own record label, Dirrindí:
- 2009 – Debut, featuring Brahms's 7 Fantasies Op. 116 and 16 Waltzes as well as Beethoven's Eroica Variations.
- 2011 – Chopin-Bach, featuring Chopin's Preludes and two of Bach's Partitas.
- 2012 – Winterreise featuring Schubert's Winterreise with Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson (CD and DVD), which was awarded the Classical Album of the Year at the 2012 Icelandic Music Awards
- 2017 – Philip Glass - Piano Works, featuring Philip Glass's Études, "Opening" from Glassworks, plus a rework of Glassworks by Christian Badzura
- 2018 – Johann Sebastian Bach, featuring works for solo piano by the composer. The album won multiple awards around the world, including BBC Music Magazine's Album of the Year 2019
- 2020 - Debussy • Rameau
Víkingur also recorded the soundtrack of Darkest Hour, the film directed by Joe Wright and released Bach Reworks featuring six 'remixed' works by J.S.Bach, from the likes of Ben Frost, Peter Gregson, Valgeir Sigurðsson as well as by Víkingur himself.
Víkingur has been awarded:
- 2019 – Gramophone magazine Artist of the Year
- 2019 – BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Year for Johann Sebastian Bach
- 2019 – BBC Music Magazine Instrumental Album of the Year for Johann Sebastian Bach
- 2019 – Opus Klassik Piano Recital Album of the Year for Johann Sebastian Bach
- 2019 – Limelight Magazine International Artist of the Year
In 2012, Víkingur founded Reykjavík Midsummer Music, an annual chamber music festival held in Harpa, Reykjavík. The festival was awarded the Musical Event of the Year award at the Icelandic Music Awards in 2012, along with a special prize for innovation. In 2015, Víkingur succeeded Martin Fröst as the artistic director of Vinterfest in Sweden.
At the 2014 Transart Festival in Bolzano, Italy, Víkingur collaborated with Swiss artist Roman Signer in a happening titled Vers la Flamme – Ein Konzert mit Störung. Víkingur performed Alexander Scriabin's Vers la flamme on a floating stage on Lake Vernago with a helicopter hovering over him.
Víkingur has both absolute pitch and synesthesia, whereby he associates keys with colors. He reportedly associates F-minor with blue, A-major with yellow, and B-major with purple as a few examples.
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