Celebrated for his visionary interpretations of J.S. Bach, Víkingur Ólafsson, one of the greatest pianists and musical minds of today, now embraces Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations. Ólafsson devotes his entire next season to touring the work globally across six continents, while October 2023 marks the anticipated album release on Deutsche Grammophon. “I have dreamed of recording this work for 25 years,” says the Icelandic pianist.
The album follows Ólafsson’s hugely successful DG recording of works by the composer, Johann Sebastian Bach (2018), which won BBC Music magazine’s Album of the Year, Opus Klassik’s Solo Recital award, numerous other recording of the year accolades and led to him being named Gramophone magazine’s Artist of the Year. Now Ólafsson brings his unique musical vision, and an affecting, meticulous recorded sound to Bach’s masterpiece.
Ólafsson dedicates his 2023–24 season to a Goldberg Variations world tour, performing the work across six continents throughout the year. He brings Bach’s masterpiece to major concert halls including London’s Southbank Centre, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Wiener Konzerthaus, Philharmonie de Paris, Philharmonie Berlin, Harpa Concert Hall, LA’s Walt Disney Hall, Sala São Paulo, Shanghai Symphony Hall, Tonhalle Zurich, KKL Luzern, Alte Oper Frankfurt and Mupa Budapest, with other dates to be announced.
“The Goldberg Variations contain some of the most virtuosic keyboard music ever written, some of the most astonishingly brilliant uses of counterpoint in the repertoire and countless instances of exalted poetry, abstract contemplation and deep pathos – all within immaculately shaped structures of formal perfection. In 30 variations, built on the humble harmonic framework of a simple, graceful aria, Bach turns limited material into boundless variety like no one before or since. He is the greatest keyboard virtuoso of his time.” comments Víkingur Ólafsson.
He continues: “Like with some of Bach’s other works on this scale, I was inclined to think of the Goldberg Variations as a grand, commanding cathedral of music, magnificent in its structure and intricate in its ornamentation. Now I find another metaphor more apt: That of a grand oak tree, no less magnificent, but somehow organic, living and vibrant, its forms both responsive and regenerative, its leaves constantly unfurling to produce musical oxygen for its admirers through some metaphysical, time-bending photosynthesis.”
In just a few short years, Ólafsson has become one of the most sought-after artists of today, performing internationally at the highest level. His multiple awards include CoScan’s International Nordic Person of the Year (2023), the Rolf Schock Prize for Music (2022), Gramophone magazine’s Artist of the Year (2019), Opus Klassik Solo Recording Instrumental (twice) and Album of the Year at the BBC Music Magazine Awards (2019). In 2023, Ólafsson is nominated for three Opus Klassik awards, including Instrumentalist of the Year.
His recordings for Deutsche Grammophon – Philip Glass Piano Works (2017), Johann Sebastian Bach (2018), Debussy Rameau (2020), Mozart & Contemporaries (2021) and From Afar (2022) – captured the public and critical imagination and have led to career streams of over 600 million.
A captivating communicator both on and off stage, Ólafsson’s significant talent extends to broadcast, having presented several of his own series for television and radio. He was Artist in Residence for three months on BBC Radio 4’s flagship arts programme, Front Row – broadcasting live during lockdown from an empty Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík, and reaching millions of listeners around the world.