Ólafsson has recently finished making his first album for the yellow label at Reykjavík’s iconic Harpa concert hall. Christian Badzura, Executive Producer, Deutsche Grammophon Artists & Repertoire, says, “Víkingur is an exceptional pianist and curator. His performance, choices of repertoire and visions for recorded sound are a fresh breeze in the classical music world. Be it Scarlatti, Rameau, Bach or Glass, Víkingur’s interpretations sound timeless.”
Described by The New York Times as a “splendid pianist” and by Piano News as an “immense talent”, Ólafsson is much sought-after by international conductors, orchestras and artists as both a chamber and concert musician. Now 32, he graduated in 2008 from The Juilliard School, where he studied with Robert McDonald, and has since released three albums on Dirrindí, the label he set up in 2009. Last year he contributed two solo piano pieces and the Valse des fleurs for piano four hands to Deutsche Grammophon’s 30-CD Stravinsky Complete Edition. Ólafsson is also Artistic Director of the annual Reykjavík Midsummer Music festival, which he founded in 2012, and last year took over from Martin Fröst as curator of Sweden’s Vinterfest.
“Víkingur is already very well-known in his native Iceland, where he’s been named ‘Musician of the Year’ four times. He brings a new Nordic sensibility to the classical repertoire, making him an exceedingly good choice as artistic director and curator of major music festivals”, notes Dr Clemens Trautmann, President of Deutsche Grammophon. “At DG, we’ve known for a while that Iceland is a hot-spring of top-notch musical creativity and Víkingur is one of its leading figures. Now we look forward to bringing his immense musical talent in classical as well as new repertoire to the attention of a worldwide audience.”
Ólafsson has commissioned and premiered, to date, five new piano concertos from different young composers, and has collaborated on diverse musical projects with a broad range of artists and musicians. These include conductors Vladimir Ashkenazy and Rafael Payare, as well as his compatriot Björk and composers Mark Simpson and Philip Glass.
The latter is the sole focus of Ólafsson’s latest recording project. Philip Glass: Piano Works will be released by Deutsche Grammophon in late January to coincide with the composer’s 80th birthday. The pianist’s fascination with reinterpreting the Piano Etudes grew as he toured and performed the works with Glass himself. “On the surface, they seem to be filled with repetitions. But the more one plays and thinks about them, the more their narratives seem to travel along in a spiral,” he explains. “My approach to each of the etudes is to enable the listener to create his or her own personal space of reflection. A partnership with Deutsche Grammophon, home of so many legendary pianists, will ensure my music reaches the ears of many more of those listeners. So of course I am honoured and excited to join DG.” (Deutsche Grammophon)