Víkingur Ólafsson Announces New Album ‘Mozart & Contemporaries’

Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson’s new album features some of his favourite Mozart works juxtaposed with pieces by the composer’s leading contemporaries.

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Vikingur Olafsson photo
Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson. Photo: Deutsche Grammophon/Ari Magg

Following the global success of Víkingur Ólafsson’s critically acclaimed recordings of Philip Glass · Piano Works (2017), Johann Sebastian Bach (2018), and Debussy · Rameau (2020) the multi-award-winning pianist will release his new album, Mozart & Contemporaries, on 3 September 2021. “For this pianist, every album is an essay,” noted The New York Times.

Features Mozart works and pieces by his leading contemporaries

Víkingur Ólafsson’s thought-provoking programme for Mozart & Contemporaries features some of his favourite Mozart keyboard works juxtaposed with pieces by a selection of the composer’s leading contemporaries: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–1788); Joseph Haydn (1732–1809); Baldassare Galuppi (1706–1785); and Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801).

“Far from the glowing image of the angelic prodigy, the music on this album is mostly by the Mozart of the 1780s, a grown man and a mature composer – who in the preceding years had come to know adversity,” explained Víkingur Ólafsson. “This is the period when Mozart was not just perfecting the Classical tradition but subtly subverting it, his graceful touch as featherlight as always but the shadows darker, the nuances and ambiguities more profound.”

CPE Bach and Joseph Haydn were closely connected with Mozart in both music and spirit. Baldassare Galuppi and Domenico Cimarosa were more distant, without significant direct links to Mozart, but belonged to the same ecosystem of 18th-century music.

“Perhaps all four provide a chance to calibrate the contemporary ear towards the prevailing ideas, styles and tastes of the times”, noted Víkingur Ólafsson. “It is my hope that this particular context, a mix of the celebrated and the obscure, can slightly alter our psychological attunement, removing some of the baggage we all bring with us to Mozart’s music. This is in any case what I set out to do for myself: to approach even the best-known works of Mozart with the same freedom and childlike enthusiasm I felt upon discovering the rare and staggeringly lyrical works from the likes of Galuppi and Cimarosa.”

“When I play Mozart …I get to know myself as a musician”

Víkingur Ólafsson’s new album Mozart & Contemporaries also includes the pianist’s own transcriptions: arrangements of two sonatas by Cimarosa, plus a solo piano transcription of the great Adagio in E flat major from Mozart’s String Quintet K516. To conclude the album, Mozart’s Adagio in B minor K540 transitions into Franz Liszt’s piano transcription of the motet Ave Verum Corpus, composed in Mozart’s final year.

“I feel like, when I play Mozart, that I get to know myself as a musician,” observed Víkingur Ólafsson. “I get to know sides that I didn’t before. He seems to reflect your innermost core in music.”

About Víkingur Ólafsson

Víkingur Ólafsson, “The new superstar of classical piano” (Daily Telegraph), made an unforgettable impact with the release of his first three albums – Philip Glass · Piano Works, Johann Sebastian Bach and Debussy · Rameau. His multiple awards include the Opus Klassik Solo Recording Instrumental (piano) for two consecutive years (2019, 2020), Album of the Year at the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2019 and Gramophone magazine’s 2019 Artist of the Year.

Víkingur Ólafsson makes his BBC Proms debut on 14 August and will perform Mozart & Contemporaries at the International Piano Series at London’s Southbank Centre on 2 October 2021.

Víkingur Ólafsson’s new album Mozart & Contemporaries will be released on 3 September 2021 and can be pre-ordered here.

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