The Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has been referred to as “Iceland’s Glenn Gould” by the New York Times and is known as one of the most creative and innovative musicians today. Ólafsson is the winner of many awards and was named Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year 2019. Gramophone has commended him for his “rare combination of sheer technical brilliance, expressive control and interpretative depth”. This is an opportunity to hear this all-round, unique pianist interpret Mozart and his contemporaries.

Víkingur Ólafsson is among the most creative and pioneering classical musicians today, known for his creative programming and innovative projects. One of the more recent ones is the solo album Mozart & Contemporaries on which Mozart is accompanied by Joseph Haydn and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach as well as Italian composers such as Baldassare Galuppi and Domenico Cimarosa.

When Ólafsson interprets music from the Mozart album at Berwaldhallen, the concert opens with music by the Venetian composer Galuppi, much acclaimed during his lifetime, especially on account of his operas, but now almost forgotten. Ólafsson has been fascinated by Galuppi since he came upon a video with his piano music, interpreted by the legendary pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Ólafsson has compared Galuppi’s ninth sonata to Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, which has the same “combination of dark, polished elegance and restless energy that is so hard to capture”.

We will also hear Ólafsson in music by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the son of the better-known Johann Sebastian. Mozart was very much influenced by him and referred to him when he said that “Bach is the father, we are his children”. Ólafsson has described J. S. Bach’s Rondo in D Minor as “irresistible”: “His approach to composition is completely atypical for his time … like Beethoven with a touch of Stravinsky.”

In this concert, however, Mozart is the protagonist. Ólafsson became fascinated by his piano sonatas when he was as young as eight years old. The renowned pianist Arthur Schnabel has described them as “too easy for children and too difficult for musicians”. The works we will hear were composed in the productive 1780s. Mozart had high hopes when he moved to Vienna in 1781 where he made himself a name as a composer and supremely gifted pianist with a talent for spell-binding the audience – a gift that very much applies to Víkingur Ólafsson too.

Text: Axel Lindhe



Víkingur Olafsson. Foto: Ari Magg

Víkingur Ólafsson, one of the most creative and innovative musicians today, has been referred to as “Iceland’s Glenn Gould” by the New York Times. Ólafsson is the winner of every major award in Iceland, including four Icelandic Musician of the Year awards, and in 2019 he was named Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year. Collaborations with composers such as Philip Glass and Daníel Bjarnason have resulted in several first performances. Before joining Deutsche Grammophon he recorded three albums for his own label, Dirrindí. Several of his recordings for Deutsche Grammophon have won international acclaim, and in 2019 he won the prestigious BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Year for the album Johann Sebastian Bach.

During the 2021–22 season, Ólafsson was Artist in Residence at the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. During the season he appeared in piano concerts by Thomas Adès, John Adams and Daníel Bjarnason. In February 2022, Ólafsson gave the first performance of Bjarnason’s third piano concerto together with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Ólafsson is also known for popularising classical music. He has hosted a number of television series about classical music for Icelandic television and he has presented broadcasts for the Icelandic radio station Rás 1 and BBC Radio 3.