Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson reflects on his musical life story, from childhood memories to his international career and contemporary inspirations, on his new album From Afar released on 7 October 2022.
The deeply personal double album was inspired by Víkingur Ólafsson’s life-changing meeting with his hero, 96-year-old Hungarian composer and pianist György Kurtág, at the Budapest Music Center in September 2021 which gave him “a feeling of lightness and joy” and sparked memories of music he loved as a child. Víkingur Ólafsson explained, “Talking with him and playing for him genuinely gave me a different perspective on life and on music.” After the meeting he wanted to write a thank you note but was unable to find the right words. Instead a musical map started to form in his head, with Kurtág’s own music as a compass. The result is From Afar (a title inspired by Kurtág’s Aus der Ferne), which is a tribute to his hero, a reflection of his musical life story, and his most personal album to date.
“It is more personal than my previous works”
“It is more personal than my previous works,” noted Víkingur Ólafsson. “It connects very deeply to my childhood and it pays homage to one of my favourite composers of all time. Throughout the album, there are intimate conversations and messages from afar – closely knit canons, transcriptions and dedications, as well as distant echoes of nearly forgotten, ancient melodies.”
Víkingur Ólafsson recorded his new album, From Afar, on both grand piano and on felt-covered upright capturing two distinct soundworlds – the intimacy of the upright and the unlimited colours of the grand. His childhood was marked by his relationship with the different timbres of two pianos – his parents’ grand piano and an upright piano he practised on in his bedroom.
From Afar features works by Bach, Mozart, Schumann, Brahms and Bartók, alongside Icelandic and Hungarian folk songs, a world premiere by Thomas Adès, three previously unreleased transcriptions by Ólafsson, and interconnecting pieces composed by György Kurtág.
The first single, Ave Maria by Sigvaldi Kaldalóns, out now, is a musical prayer which Ólafsson performed as Lockdown Artist in Residence for BBC Radio 4’s Front Row in 2020, broadcasting live from an empty Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík and bringing solace to millions of listeners around the world.
About Víkingur Ólafsson
Víkingur Ólafsson, “The new superstar of classical piano” (Daily Telegraph), has made a profound impact with his remarkable combination of highest level musicianship and innovative programmes. His critically acclaimed recordings have led to over 400 million streams and topped classical charts around the world. Ólafsson’s numerous awards include Gramophone Artist of the Year (2019), BBC Music Magazine Album of the Year (2019) for Johann Sebastian Bach and the Opus Klassik Solo Recording Instrumental award (twice). He has performed at many of the world’s major international venues and, in the coming months, opens the classical music seasons at the Southbank Centre in London and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and debuts with the Berlin Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic orchestras.
Víkingur Ólafsson’s new album From Afar will be released on 7 October 2022 and can be pre-ordered here.