Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Víkingur Ólafsson — Mozart and Contemporaries (DG)
“I think the good thing about Iceland is that you have a certain sense of freedom and you have to find your own path,” said pianist Víkingur Ólafsson about how he experienced growing up in Iceland in the 1990s. “My mother was a piano teacher and a very good one. But she never pushed me. She would rather have me go out and play football with my friends and be a normal kid.”
That sense of freedom has extended into his live performances and his recordings. This past summer, Ólafsson made his long-awaited debut at the BBC Proms, where he offered a preview of his new release, Mozart and Contemporaries.
Why are you trying to change people's perceptions of Mozart?
“I think we all come to Mozart with a certain amount of baggage. For instance, if you're a piano student and play the easy pieces of Mozart when you're 7 or 8, then your teachers are sort of indoctrinating the myth of Mozart upon you. They're telling you about his unparalleled genius and scaring you with the idea of him. I went to see the Magic Flute when I was 7. It was the first opera I had ever saw and I remember just being pale afterwards thinking, ‘Oh my God, he must have written this when he was 7. What have I done with my life?’
“The whole album is an exploration of not Mozart-the-Wunderkind, but rather the mature Mozart. I believe that is the Mozart that we know today and what we think of when we think of him.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.