Víkingur Ólafsson

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Víkingur Ólafsson
Born (1984-02-14) 14 February 1984 (age 37)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Occupation(s)Classical pianist
Years active2009–present
LabelsDeutsche Grammophon

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

He has performed with leading orchestras in Europe and America,[1] including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and with such conductors as Thomas Adès, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Santtu-Matias Rouvali. He has won numerous awards, including Album of the Year at the 2019 BBC Music Magazine Awards for Johann Sebastian Bach.[2]

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

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.[6] 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.[7] He also took lessons with Ann Schein.[8]


In 2011, Víkingur was the soloist in the opening concert of Harpa in Reykjavík, playing Edvard Grieg's piano concerto with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy.[9]

In the 2019–20 season, Víkingur gave the French première of John Adams's Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and performed it with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, both with Adams conducting.[10]

In the same season, Víkingur was artist-in-residence at the Konzerthaus Berlin, with fourteen performances over eleven different projects, playing concertos by Adès, Robert Schumann, Daníel Bjarnason, and Mozart, two solo recitals, and chamber programmes with Martin Fröst and Florian Boesch. He has an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.[11]

Víkingur has premiered six piano concertos by Icelandic composers—including Snorri Sigfús Birgisson [is],[12] Daníel Bjarnason,[13] Haukur Tómasson,[14] and Þórður Magnússon [is][15]—as well as solo and chamber works by Atli Ingólfsson,[16] Mark Simpson,[17] and Mark-Anthony Turnage.[18] He has taken part in collaborative performances with Philip Glass (in Reykjavík,[19] Gothenburg,[20] and London[21][22]) and Björk, the latter on the television programme Átta raddir, produced by Jónas Sen for RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.[23]


Víkingur has released three albums on his own record label, Dirrindí:[24]

In 2016, Víkingur signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon.[26]

  • 2017 – Philip Glass – Piano Works, featuring Philip Glass's Études, "Opening" from Glassworks, and a rework of Glassworks by Christian Badzura
  • 2018 – Johann Sebastian Bach, featuring Bach's works for keyboard solo. The album won multiple awards, including BBC Music Magazine's Album of the Year[27]
  • 2020 – Debussy • Rameau
  • 2021 - Mozart & Contemporaries

Víkingur also recorded the soundtrack of Darkest Hour, a 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 Víkingur himself.



Víkingur has hosted two television series about classical music. Broadcast on RÚV,[30] they were well received by critics.[31][32] He has also written and hosted radio programmes for Rás 1 and BBC Radio 3.[33][34]


In 2012, Víkingur founded Reykjavík Midsummer Music, an annual chamber music festival held in Harpa, Reykjavík. The festival won Musical Event of the Year at the 2012 Icelandic Music Awards, along with a special prize for innovation.[35] In 2015, the pianist succeeded Martin Fröst as the artistic director of Sweden's Vinterfest.[36]

At the 2014 Transart Festival in Bolzano, Italy, Víkingur collaborated with Swiss artist Roman Signer in an event 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.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Víkingur has both absolute pitch and synesthesia, whereby he associates keys with colors. For example, he reportedly associates F minor with blue, A major with yellow, and B major with purple.[38]


  1. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson". Bach Cantatas. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  2. ^ Tilden, Imogen (30 April 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". 18 August 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. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson – a true classical music entrepreneur". Arcana. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson – piano". Harrison Parrott. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  8. ^ Jónsdóttir, Bergþóra. ""Tónlist skapar einingu" [Music Creates Unity"]". Morgunblaðið. Árvakur. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  9. ^ Sen, Jónas. "Gagnrýni: Fagurt er í Hörpu" [Review: It is Beautiful in Harpa]. Visir.is. 365 miðlar. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  10. ^ "John Adams and Víkingur Ólafsson in Paris and Amsterdam". HarrisonParrott. 21 February 2020. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson Bio". Deutsche Grammophon. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  12. ^ "CAPUT New Music Ensemble". CAPUT: Snorri Sigfús Birgisson (bio). Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  13. ^ Bjarnason, Daníel. "Processions". www.danielbjarnason.net. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  14. ^ Tómasson, Haukur. "Everything Has Changed. Nothing Has Changed". www.haukurtomasson.com. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  15. ^ "Iceland's star pianist, Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson in concert tonight". Iceland Monitor / www.mbl.is. Morgunblaðið. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  16. ^ Smith, Steve. "In Iceland, a Festival of Present and Future". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Simpson, Mark: Echoes and Embers (2012)". Boosey and Hawkes.
  18. ^ "Turnage, Mark-Anthony: Cradle Song (2008)". Boosey and Hawkes. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  19. ^ Rogers, John. "Harpa Hypnotised by Philip Glass". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  20. ^ "Philip Glass The Etudes | Philip Glass, Maki Namekawa, Víkingur Ólafsson piano". Göteborgs-Posten. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  21. ^ Hewett, Ivan. "Philip Glass: The Études, Barbican, review: 'a well-oiled machine'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  22. ^ Fairman, Richard. "Philip Glass Etudes, Barbican, London — review". Financial Times. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  23. ^ "Video: Oceania from Átta Raddir (02.27.2009). Björk, Jónas Sen, Víkingur Ólafsson". Youtube. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  24. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson, Piano". HarrisonParrott. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Icelandic Music Awards – Previous Winners (2012)". Icelandic Music Awards. ÍSTÓN. Archived from the original on 27 October 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Frischer Wind bei Deutsche Grammophon: Víkingur Ólafsson feiert Album-Debüt beim Traditionshaus mit Werken von Philip Glass". Universal Music News. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  27. ^ a b c "Winners announced for the 2019 BBC Music Magazine Awards | Classical-Music.com". www.classical-music.com.
  28. ^ "Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2019: the full report". Gramophone.
  29. ^ "Critics' Choice: International Artist of the Year 2019".
  30. ^ "Útúrdúr". www.ruv.is. RÚV [Icelandic National Broadcasting Service]. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  31. ^ Ingólfsson, Einar Falur. "Eðli tónlistarinnar skoðað af ástríðu [Passionately observing the nature of music]". www.mbl.is. Morgunblaðið. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  32. ^ Bergþórsdóttir, Kolbrún. "Smitandi áhugi [Contagious enthusiasm]". www.dv.is. DV. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  33. ^ "Fjórar hendur og flygill [Four hands and a grand piano]". www.ruv.is. RÚV. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  34. ^ "BBC Radio 3 - Transcribe, Transform with Víkingur Ólafsson, Old and New". BBC. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  35. ^ "Reykjavík Midsummer Music". Icelandic Music. IMX: Iceland Music Export. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  36. ^ "Víkingur Ólafsson ny konstnärlig ledare för Vinterfest [Víkingur Ólafsson Appointed Artistic Director of Vinterfest]". Sveriges Radio. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  37. ^ "Concerto per piano ed elicottero: il palco è in mezzo al lago". La Repubblica. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  38. ^ Southbank Centre (20 November 2017), In conversation: Víkingur Ólafsson, retrieved 19 April 2019

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