Víkingur Ólafsson

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Víkingur Ólafsson (born 14 February 1984) is an Icelandic pianist.

He has performed with leading orchestras in Europe and America,[1] 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.[2]

Víkingur's album Philip Glass Piano Works saw him named “Iceland’s Glenn Gould” by the New York Times,[3] "breathtakingly brilliant pianist" by Gramophone magazine,[4] and Le Monde herald his "volcanic temperament, great virtuosity, taste for challenges."[5]

Víkingur was the soloist in the opening concert of Harpa in Reykjavík, playing Edvard Grieg's A-minor piano concerto with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy.[6]

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.

He has an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Víkingur Ólafsson grew up in Reykjavík and started playing the piano at an early age under the tutelage of his mother, a piano teacher.[8] 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.[9] Víkingur also took lessons with Ann Schein.[10]


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.

He will be artist in residence at Berlin Konzerthaus and will give solo recitals at Vienna Konzerthaus, Lucerne Festival, Gothenburg Concert Hall and across Japan for a recital tour.

Víkingur has premiered six piano concertos by Icelandic composers—Snorri Sigfús Birgisson [is],[11] Daníel Bjarnason,[12] Haukur Tómasson,[13] and Þórður Magnússon [is][14] among them—as well as solo and chamber works by Atli Ingólfsson,[15] Mark Simpson[16] and Mark-Anthony Turnage.[17] Víkingur has taken part in collaborative performances with Philip Glass (in Reykjavík,[18] Gothenburg[19] and London[20][21]) and Björk, the latter taking place on the television programme Átta raddir, produced by Jónas Sen for RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.[22]


Víkingur released three albums on his own record label, Dirrindí:[23]

In 2016, Víkingur signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.[25]

  • 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[26]
  • 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:


Víkingur has hosted two television series about classical music. Broadcast on RÚV,[29] they were well received by critics.[30][31] He has also written and hosted radio programmes for Rás 1.[32]


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.[33] In 2015, Víkingur succeeded Martin Fröst as the artistic director of Vinterfest in Sweden.[34]

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.[35]

Personal life[edit]

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.[36]


  1. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson". Bach Cantatas. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  2. ^ Tilden, Imogen (April 30, 2019). "Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson: 'Everyone knows how to listen to music, just like we know how to drink water'" – via www.theguardian.com.
  3. ^ "Bleak, Gentle and Sweet: This Week's 8 Best Classical Music Moments on YouTube". August 18, 2017 – via NYTimes.com.
  4. ^ GLASS Études – selection. Glassworks – Opening | gramophone.co.uk https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/glass-études-–-selection-glassworks-–-opening
  5. ^ Sélection albums : Philippe Leroux, Inès Bacan, Vikingur Olafsson... https://www.lemonde.fr › Musiques
  6. ^ Sen, Jónas. "Gagnrýni: Fagurt er í Hörpu" [Review: It is Beautiful in Harpa]. Visir.is. 365 miðlar. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson Bio". Deutsche Grammophon. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  8. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson – a true classical music entrepreneur". Arcana. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson – piano". Harrison Parrott. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  10. ^ Jónsdóttir, Bergþóra. ""Tónlist skapar einingu" [Music Creates Unity"]". Morgunblaðið. Árvakur. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  11. ^ "CAPUT New Music Ensemble". CAPUT: Snorri Sigfús Birgisson (bio). Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  12. ^ Bjarnason, Daníel. "Processions". www.danielbjarnason.net. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  13. ^ Tómasson, Haukur. "Everything Has Changed. Nothing Has Changed". www.haukurtomasson.com. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  14. ^ "Iceland's star pianist, Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson in concert tonight". Iceland Monitor / www.mbl.is. Morgunblaðið. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  15. ^ Smith, Steve. "In Iceland, a Festival of Present and Future". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Simpson, Mark: Echoes and Embers (2012)". Boosey and Hawkes.
  17. ^ "Turnage, Mark-Anthony: Cradle Song (2008)". Boosey and Hawkes. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  18. ^ Rogers, John. "Harpa Hypnotised by Philip Glass". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Philip Glass The Etudes | Philip Glass, Maki Namekawa, Víkingur Ólafsson piano". Göteborgs-Posten. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  20. ^ Hewett, Ivan. "Philip Glass: The Études, Barbican, review: 'a well-oiled machine'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  21. ^ Fairman, Richard. "Philip Glass Etudes, Barbican, London — review". Financial Times. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  22. ^ "Video: Oceania from Átta Raddir (02.27.2009). Björk, Jónas Sen, Víkingur Ólafsson". Youtube. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  23. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano". HarrisonParrott. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  24. ^ "Icelandic Music Awards – Previous Winners (2012)". Icelandic Music Awards. ÍSTÓN. Archived from the original on 27 October 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Frischer Wind bei Deutsche Grammophon: Víkingur Ólafsson feiert Album-Debüt beim Traditionshaus mit Werken von Philip Glass". Universal Music News. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  26. ^ a b c "Winners announced for the 2019 BBC Music Magazine Awards | Classical-Music.com". www.classical-music.com.
  27. ^ "Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2019: the full report". Gramophone.
  28. ^ "Critics' Choice: International Artist of the Year 2019".
  29. ^ "Útúrdúr". www.ruv.is. RÚV [Icelandic National Broadcasting Service]. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  30. ^ Ingólfsson, Einar Falur. "Eðli tónlistarinnar skoðað af ástríðu [Passionately observing the nature of music]". www.mbl.is. Morgunblaðið. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  31. ^ Bergþórsdóttir, Kolbrún. "Smitandi áhugi [Contagious enthusiasm]". www.dv.is. DV. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  32. ^ "Fjórar hendur og flygill [Four hands and a grand piano]". www.ruv.is. RÚV. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  33. ^ "Reykjavík Midsummer Music". Icelandic Music. IMX: Iceland Music Export. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  34. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson ny konstnärlig ledare för Vinterfest [Víkingur Ólafsson Appointed Artistic Director of Vinterfest]". Sveriges Radio. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  35. ^ "Concerto per piano ed elicottero: il palco è in mezzo al lago". La Repubblica. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  36. ^ Southbank Centre (2017-11-20), In conversation: Víkingur Ólafsson, retrieved 2019-04-19

External links[edit]

Official website Edit this at Wikidata