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Solo Piano - Released September 7, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Classical - Released January 27, 2017 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
The piano etudes of Philip Glass were, like 19th century examples of the form, technical studies. Glass, in fact, wrote them over two decades as a way of improving his own piano skills. Yet they are also, like Chopin's etudes, little compositional studies that establish a set of parameters and explore it in a basic way. They offer the excellent means to come to grips with Glass' musical language, and they reveal the personalities of their performers more than most of his other compositions. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson emerged to acclaim as part of a joint recital of all 20 etudes at the Barbican in London, and his work here fulfills the promise shown. After an overture from Glassworks (1981), Ólafsson launches into a sequence of 11 etudes. He doesn't follow the original order, but this is all to the good: the Glass etudes are self-contained pieces, and his progression is convincing. Ólafsson's touch is light, sweeping, dreamy, and evocative of the mystical side of the composer's personality. He catches the logic of each etude as it unfolds the implications of the very simple material with which it begins. And he makes an unusual decision: one etude, and the opening Glassworks excerpt in a return appearance as a postlude, are "reworked" by Christian Badzura with the addition of a part for string quartet. Ólafsson's own notes don't offer any justification for this, and the forces in Glass' music are less optional than in that of his contemporaries. But it's strangely compelling, and after the especially lush "Etude No. 20" -- as good a place as any to start sampling -- the addition of the string quartet to the Glassworks music seems to take the mood to a higher plane. This is a very fine Glass recording, beautifully engineered in an Icelandic hall. ~ James Manheim
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Classical - Released October 5, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released September 7, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson emerged from considerable popularity in his native country, signing with Deutsche Grammophon and releasing an attractive album of music by Philip Glass. With his second album for the label, Johann Sebastian Bach, he ups the stakes; the title itself announces a grand ambition to reimagine the compositions of the first master of keyboard music. Ólafsson rightly points out that the Bach canon is constantly changing, and indeed many of the pieces on his program are not very familiar. Sample the Aria variata, BWV 989, both to hear a marvelous Bach piece that's not one of the common ones, and to experience Ólafsson's piano style, detailed and pianistic without, for the most part, being Romantic. He's a compelling pianist who can take an audience through a wide range of sounds, and his Bach demands attention. He also tries to climb the Bach mountain and plant a new flag at the top, and here he may overreach. Ólafsson ignores Bach's tendency to think in sets, and he picks individual pieces and stacks them up for cumulative effect. There's nothing wrong with this per se, but the program builds in sheer volume toward the end, with the pedal, sparsely applied at the start, playing a greater and greater role. Reactions to this will differ: Ólafsson has the technical equipment to pull off this grand gesture, but whether it fits Bach is something for the listener to decide. A Bach recording that demands attention.
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Classical - Released January 27, 2017 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
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Classical - Released October 5, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Classical - Released September 6, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)