Víkingur Ólafsson releases J.S. Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ | Listen to ‘J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria’ & see world tour dates

 “Icelandic pianist brings magic and spontaneity to Bach”

The Guardian

“A remarkable Bach recital that filled me with hope”

The I Paper

6 October 2023 (Toronto, ON) — 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 is devoting his entire 2023-24 season to touring the work globally across six continents, and the album is out now on Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Canada. “I have dreamed of recording this work for 25 years,” says the Icelandic pianist.

“Víkingur Ólafsson breathes new life into every note of the Goldberg Variations,” says Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “His subtle sensitivity of touch makes this complex composition seem light and effortless. Víkingur’s take on this pinnacle of Baroque musical art offers an almost paradoxical combination of the playful and the profound. This is how music composed ‘to refresh the spirits of music lovers’ should sound – it’s exactly what Bach must have had in mind. The Goldberg Variations project embodies and even transcends all the qualities that have made Víkingur’s recording oeuvre on Deutsche Grammophon so groundbreakingly contemporary and so incredibly successful.”

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.

Christian Badzura, VP A&R New Repertoire at Deutsche Grammophon recalls the origins of the project: “When I first met Víkingur I asked him what he would play for me and he said, ‘the Goldberg Variations’. I was instantly amazed by his performance back then and knew we had to work together. Now, over eight years later, we’re finally releasing the Goldberg Variations. The sales and streams achieved so far across all releases are extraordinary. Success is always a team effort – there are many unseen talents with passion, creativity, analytical skills and endurance involved in this process, and I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone who has played and is continuing to play a part in this exceptional artistic journey.”

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.

“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 Opus Klassik Instrumentalist of the Year (2023), Opus Klassik Solo Recording Instrumental (twice), CoScan’s International Nordic Person of the Year (2023), the Rolf Schock Prize for Music (2022), Gramophone magazine’s Artist of the Year (2019) and Album of the Year at the BBC Music Magazine Awards (2019). 

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 almost one billion.

“We’re very proud to be part of the Víkingur Ólafsson success story,” says Marc Fritsch, DG’s Senior Marketing Director Special Projects. “Right from the start, we’ve focused on employing comprehensive and creative ways of raising his global profile. These have been very effective, as we can see from the kind of impressive figures normally only achieved by pop stars. Having sold almost 700,000 albums and garnered nearly a billion streams, he’s become one of the most successful pianists of our time. The Deutsche Grammophon team has done sensational work in promoting his artistry both in Germany and around the world.”

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.

Víkingur Ólafsson in the press:

“one of the most original musical minds around” Gramophone

“Bach at the keyboard has rarely sounded so fresh, expressive and joyous.”

Sunday Times Culture classical album of the week (J.S. Bach, 2018)

“Víkingur Ólafsson takes Bach playing to a whole new, incredible level.”

BBC Music Magazine

“Ólafsson’s inspired playing makes Bach more human than we’ve heard in a long time”

Süddeutsche Zeitung

He manages to surprise even in the most familiar works, taming the different voices with authority while allowing room for adventurous turns — a blend of respect and audaciousness that makes for a refreshing addition to the crowded field of Bach recordings.”

New York Times

“We came to hear the prodigious interpreter of Philip Glass, and discovered an explosive reader of J.S. Bach”

Le Figaro


Goldberg Variations world tour 2023-24:

Mon 9 Oct 2023 Alte Oper Frankfurt (Germany)
Tue 10 Oct 2023 Hamburg Laeiszhalle (Germany)
Wed 11 Oct 2023 Kölner Philharmonie, Cologne (Germany)
Fri 13 Oct 2023 Großer Sendesaal des NDR, Hannover (Germany)
Sat 14 Oct 2023 Die Glocke, Bremen (Germany)
Sun 15 Oct 2023 Tonhalle Düsseldorf (Germany)
Tue 17 Oct 2023 Philharmonie Berlin (Germany)
Thu 19 Oct 2023 Heinrich-Lades-Halle, Erlangen (Germany)
Sat 21 Oct 2023 Prinzregententheater, Munich (Germany)
Sun 29 Oct 2023 BOZAR, Brussels (Belgium)
Mon 30 Oct 2023 Stuttgart (Germany)
Wed 1 Nov 2023 Liverpool (UK)
Fri 3 Nov 2023 Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna (Austria)
Sat 4 Nov 2023 Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna (Austria)
Mon 6 Nov 2023 Palau de la Musica, Barcelona (Spain)
Tue 7 Nov 2023 Centro Nacional de Difusion Musical, Madrid (Spain)
Wed 8 Nov 2023 Sociedad Filarmónica de Bilbao (Spain)
Sat 11 Nov 2023 Saffron Hall, Essex (UK)
Mon 13 Nov 2023 Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome (Italy)
Sun 26 Nov 2023 Grand Theatre Angers (France)
Mon 27 Nov 2023 Philharmonie de Paris (France)
Tue 28 Nov 2023 Müpa (Budapest)
Sat 2 Dec 2023 Tokyo (Japan)
Sun 3 Dec 2023 Tokyo (Japan)
Wed 6 Dec 2023 Sapporo (Japan)
Fri 8 Dec 2023 Hamamatsu (Japan)
Sat 9 Dec 2023 Osaka (Japan)
Sun 10 Dec 2023 Nagoya (Japan)
Tue 12 Dec 2023 Suseong Artpia, Daegu (S. Korea)
Wed 13 Dec 2023 Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Center, Goyang-si, Gyunggi-do (S. Korea)
Fri 15 Dec 2023 Seoul Arts Center (S. Korea)
Sat 16 Dec 2023 Tongyeong Concert Hall, Tongyeong (S. Korea)
Sat 20 Jan 2024 Philharmonie Essen (Germany)
Mon 22 Jan 2024 Club Musical de Quebec (Canada)
Wed 24 Jan 2024 Bourgie Hall, Montreal, Quebec (Canada)
Fri 26 Jan 2024 Perelman Theater, Philadelphia (USA)
Sun 28 Jan 2024 Houston, Texas (USA)
Tue 30 Jan 2024 Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Saint Paul, Minnesota (USA)
Wed 31 Jan 2024 Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Saint Paul, Minnesota (USA)
Sun 4 Feb 2024 Royal Conservatory Toronto (Canada)
Wed 7 Feb 2024 Carnegie Hall, New York (USA)
Thu 8 Feb 2024 Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, Princeton, NJ (USA)
Sat 10 Feb 2024 Jordan Hall, Boston, MA (USA)
Wed 14 Feb 2024 Harpa Hall, Reykjavík (Iceland)
Fri 16 Feb 2024 Harpa Hall, Reykjavík (Iceland)
Sun 18 Feb 2024 Harpa Hall, Reykjavík (Iceland)
Sat 2 Mar 2024 Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (Sweden)
Sun 3 Mar 2024 Konserthuset Stockholm (Sweden)
Sun 10 Mar 2024 Prague (Czech Republic)
Fri 15 Mar 2024 Adelaide Town Hall (Australia)
Sun 17 Mar 2024 UKARIA Cultural Centre (Australia)
Mon 18 Mar 2024 Sydney Opera House (Australia)
Mon 25 Mar 2024 Melbourne Recital Centre (Australia)
Fri 19 Apr 2024 Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich (Switzerland)
Mon 22 Apr 2024 Centro Cultural de Música Teatro Solís, Montevideo (Uruguay)
Sun 28 Apr 2024 Sala São Paulo (Brazil)
Wed 1 May 2024 Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles (USA)
Thu 2 May 2024 Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa, California (USA)
Sat 4 May 2024 Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA (USA)
Sun 5 May 2024 Seattle Symphony Orchestra (USA)
Sun 26 May 2024 Konzerthaus Dortmund (Germany)
Fri 31 May 2024 Shanghai Symphony Hall (China)
Thu 6 Jun 2024 Shenzhen Concert Hall (China)
Fri 7 Jun 2024 Guangzhou Opera House (China)
Sun 9 Jun 2024 Esplanade Concert Hall (Singapore)
Tue 11 Jun 2024 Hong Kong Cultural Centre (Hong Kong, China)
Tue 25 Jun 2024 Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg (Germany)

Alice Lange
Alice Lange
Alice Lange is passionate about music. She has been part of several groups in the production side and has now decided to bring her experience to the field of journalism. She also reviews movies and television and participates in various events. Contact: music (@) martincid (.) com
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