Icelandic Pianist Wins Juilliard School Competition Skip to content

Icelandic Pianist Wins Juilliard School Competition

Icelandic piano student Víkingur Heidar Ólafsson of the prestigious Juilliard School in New York was named the winner in the school’s competition for soloists for his interpretation of a piece by Bartók last week.

“There were seven of us in the finals in a competition on who would earn the right to perform Bartók’s piano concert no. 3 with the school orchestra in Avery Fisher Hall, a huge music hall that belongs to the New York Philharmonic,” Ólafsson told Morgunbladid.

The concert is scheduled for March 31 and it will be conducted by Roberto Abbado, son of Claudio Abbado. “It is fantastic – he is conducting in the Metropolitan and I have only heard good things about him,” Ólafsson said.

Three well-known pianists were in the jury of the Juilliard School competition: Barry Snyder, who performed in Iceland three years ago, Alan Feinberg, an expert in contemporary music, and Phillip Kawin, professor at the Manhattan School of Music.

“I almost felt sorry for them having to listen to the same Bartók concert seven times in a row. But it is great for me to get such an opportunity shortly before I graduate,” Ólafsson said. “They liked my sound and the diversity in my interpretation.”

Ólafsson almost wasn’t able to compete because he was busy playing in concerts in Iceland. “When I got back in New York I wasn’t sure whether I should compete. Everyone had begun practicing a long time ago. […] But I practiced hard for three weeks and everything worked out.”

On Tuesday evening next week, Ólafsson will perform in Salurinn music hall in the Reykjavík suburb of Kópavogur along with flautist Denis Bouriakov. “I haven’t met him but I’ve heard that he’s great,” Ólafsson said.

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