Víkingur Ólafsson (born 14 February 1984) is an Icelandic pianist. He has performed with orchestras in Europe and America, and has won numerous awards for his playing, including four Performer of the Year awards at the Icelandic Music Awards, and the Icelandic Optimism Prize. In 2009, Víkingur was nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize. Víkingur was the soloist in the opening concert of Harpa in Reykjavík, playing Edvard Grieg's A-minor piano concerto with Iceland Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy. Víkingur holds an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.
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 been active in promoting contemporary music. He has premiered six piano concertos by Icelandic composers including Snorri Sigfús Birgisson, Daníel Bjarnason, Haukur Tómasson, and Þórður Magnússon. Additionally, Víkingur has premiered 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.
In 2016, Víkingur signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon, and released a recording of Glass's piano works in January, 2017. Before that, he 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
Víkingur has hosted two television series about classical music, which were broadcast on RÚV, and were well received by critics. Víkingur has also written and hosted radio programmes for Rás 1.
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.
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