7. October 2021

Víkingur & Contemporaries

Víkingur Ólafsson takes centre stage as Iceland Symphony Orchestra’s Artist in Residence across 2021-22 season

Anyone seeking good news about classical music should look to Iceland. The Nordic island nation’s commitment to music education continues to produce composers and performers with international reach and an enthusiastic audience for their work. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra is set to celebrate the artistry and creative enterprise of one of Iceland’s best-known musicians, Víkingur Ólafsson, at Harpa in their home city of Reykjavík. The critically acclaimed pianist’s run as Artist in Residence, part of the orchestra’s compelling 2021-22 season, reflects his vision of classical music as a vibrant, living artform.

Ólafsson will perform piano concertos by Thomas Adès, John Adams and Daníel Bjarnason, each conducted by its composer, and explore music from Mozart & Contemporaries, his latest album for Deutsche Grammophon. The residency begins on 18 November 2021 with Thomas Adès’s In Seven Days (2008), a profound contemplation of the biblical story of the Creation for piano, large orchestra and video installation. It continues on 19, 20 & 21 November when Ólafsson presents a selection of works from Mozart & Contemporaries, showing how Mozart, Haydn, C.P.E. Bach and others transformed keyboard music.

Daníel Bjarnason’s Piano Concerto No.3 reaches Iceland on 2 March 2022, just days after Ólafsson gives its world premiere in Los Angeles. The programme includes Adams’s Lollapalooza and a new orchestral version of Clockworking (2020) by María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir. Bjarnason, who studied piano with Ólafsson’s mother, directs the concert as the Iceland Symphony Orchestra’s Artist in Collaboration. John Adams joins Ólafsson and the orchestra on 5 May for an all-Adams programme. Conducting his own music in Iceland for the first time, he has programmed his piano concerto Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (2019) between the iconic Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986) and Harmonielehre (1985).

“I love working with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra’s superb musicians,” says Víkingur Ólafsson. “They were able to play for audiences at Harpa during the pandemic when so many orchestras were silent or could only perform behind closed doors. Their music-making became a symbol of hope during such difficult times. We are so fortunate that three great composers will join us to conduct their strikingly individual piano concertos. Each shows the genre’s freshness and vitality, just as Mozart and his contemporaries did. I am delighted to share this spirit of creative energy and invention with our audience at Harpa.”

In addition to Ólafsson’s residency, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra’s 2021-22 season includes dates with Björk, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer Högni Egilsson, two concert performances of Die Walküre conducted by the ISO’s Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Eva Ollikainen, and two concerts conducted by Barbara Hannigan.

“The relationship between Víkingur and the orchestra is very special,” observes Lára Sóley Jóhannsdóttir, Managing Director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. “We have such a brilliant season, with Die Walküre in February and some wonderful guest artists, but this residency is a true highlight for us. After the past eighteen months of the pandemic, it feels like a miracle to bring these three wonderful composers to Iceland to direct Víkingur and our musicians in their concertos. Although this was Víkingur’s idea, I don’t think even he thought it would be possible. We’re delighted that all of the pieces of the jigsaw have fallen into place and that our audiences will be able experience this unique series of concerts.”