Göteborgs Konserthus Víkingur Ólafsson and the Goldberg Variations

The acclaimed Icelandic pianist is back in Gothenburg with his sensitive interpretations of classical masterpieces. In the hands of Víkingur Ólafsson, Bach's immortal Goldberg Variations are passed on to a new generation.

Concert length: 1 h 30 min Scene: Stora salen
380-540 SEK Student 190-270 SEK Youth up to 29 190-270 SEK

The acclaimed Icelandic pianist is back in Gothenburg with his sensitive interpretations of classical masterpieces. In the hands of Víkingur Ólafsson, Bach’s immortal Goldberg Variations are passed on to a new generation.

He is called Iceland’s Glenn Gould. This time, Vikingur Ólafsson brings the legendary Glenn Gould’s main parade number to Gothenburg – the Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Vikingur Ólafsson’s piano interpretations of Bach compositions were named record of the year by BBC Music Magazine in 2019. The fresh versions of nearly 300-year-old pieces have an ability to touch in all their simplicity. It sounds both familiar and unexpected. “The Icelandic pianist has an almost unique ability to make counterpoint sing,” The Spectator wrote.

As mythical as the peculiar Canadian pianist Gould was, the Goldberg Variations have been perceived as just as magical by music lovers around the world. The details of the 80-minute solo work have been studied in minute detail. It consists of two arias, one at the beginning and one at the end, with 30 variations in between. The key is the continuous bass and it is the bass that is intricately varied and embellished with ornaments, melodies and changing tempos. As Bach wrote for harpsichord and organ with double keyboards, it is an extra challenge on a piano to get the fingers to match, wich often results in crossed hands.

It has been said that Bach wrote the piece for a count who needed music to help him sleep. But there is nothing soporific in the music, and it is known today that the pieces were begun even before Bach met the count. The person who performed the work at the premiere was harpsichordist Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, and hence the name.

In any case, Bach has given us priceless music that now travels towards eternity in Vikingur Ólafsson’s hands.

Thanks to generous support from the Sten A Olsson Foundation, we get to experience Víkingur Ólafsson in this concert.


Get to know Víkingur Ólafsson.

Get to know Glenn Goulds iconic album.


J S Bach Goldberg Variations 1 h 20 min

Saturday 2 March 2024: The event ends at approx. 16.30


Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson's unique personality and strong musical convictions have caused him to take the music world by storm in just a few years and become one of the most sought-after artists of our time. He has made an unforgettable impression with his albums of music by Philip Glass, Johann Sebastian Bach and Rameau/Debussy (Deutsche Grammophon). Ólafsson is devoting his entire 2023-2024 season to the Goldberg Variations on a World tour, performing the work across six continents over the season. He brings Bach's masterpieces to major concert halls including London's Southbank Centre, New York's Carnegie Hall, Wiener Konzerthaus, Philharmonie de Paris, Tokyo's Suntory Hall, Harpa Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, Walt Disney Hall, Sala São Paulo, Shanghai Symphony Hall, Tonhalle Zurich and Philharmonie Berlin to name a few. His new musical insights in Bach's music have been praised by critics and the 2018 Bach album appeared on many best-of-the-year lists. It also received accolades such as Opus Klassik Classical Piano Solo Recording of the Year 2019, BBC Music Magazine Album of the Year 2019 and was named one of the best Bach recordings ever by Gramophone. Víkingur Ólafsson's recording of Philip Glass's piano music was an equal success and the New York Times called the pianist "Iceland's own Glenn Gould". He was named Gramophone Artist of the Year 2019 and by Limelight Magazine as International Artist of the Year 2019. Other awards include CoScan's International Nordic Person of the Year (2023) and the Rolf Schock Prize for Music (2022).

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