Víkingur Ólafsson – Philip Glass. Piano Works
Siggi String Quartet: Una Sveinbjarnardóttir: violin I, Helga Þóra Björgvinsdóttir: violin II, Þórunn Ósk Marínósdóttir: viola, Sigurður Bjarki Gunnarsson: cello
Deutsche Grammophon, 2017
Philip Glass is considered one of the leading composers of our times and it is really wonderful to make a journey through his Glassworks and Études through the interpretation of an accomplished and emerging pianist.
Glass composed twenty Études for piano from 1991 to 2012 with the aim «to explore a variety of tempi, textures, and piano techniques». The first six Études were intended as a birthday gift for conductor Dennis Russell Davies, who had commissioned to Glass several symphonic works in the Nineties, and Glass himself recorded a performance of the first ten. The 20th Étude was completed for his 75th birthday.
Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has closely collaborated with Glass and performed with success his Études many times before he recorded them for Deutsche Grammophon. He signed the contract with the prestigious label in 2016, but to this date, he had already recorded some albums for the label Dirrindí (Debut, with a selection of works by Brahms and Beethoven, an album featuring Chopin’s Preludes and Bach’s Partitas, and Winterreise, with bass Kristinn Sigmundsson). Piano Works is therefore the first album Ólafsson has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon.
Ólafsson proves to be extremely sensitive to the nuances of the Études and of the Opening from Glassworks. The Opening is an introduction to the entire album and sets its general features with its abstractness and stillness, which seem astonishingly suited to Ólafsson’s lucid approach. He provides the Études with some original colours and his technical skills allows him to play them without difficulty, so that the rarefied and evocative character of the compositions freely emerges in his performance. Ólafsson plays the Études highlighting their liquid and crystalline sound and conferring lightness and quietness to them, a uniformity rarely interrupted by a nervous tension, which concerns only few pieces or rather moments.
The Siggi String Quartet accompanies the pianist in the Opening from Glassworks and in the Études no. 2 & 5, reworked by Christian Badzura, and adds some variety and colour to the album.