It’s not often that Iceland produces raw talents in classical music like Víkingur Heiðar Ólafsson, the young concert piano artist who’s on the cover of this new issue of the Reykjavík Grapevine. Most foreigners know the names of Björk and Sigur rós, and Vikingur belongs in the same category—in his work, like theirs, there’s both unbridled power and disciplined finesse.
In our interesting in-depth interview with Víkingur, you can find a reflection of the characteristics of the Icelandic soul. Víkingur describes how he was accepted at the acclaimed New York music school Juilliard—one of only thirteen successful applicants, from hundreds. The other kids knew each other, because they had been competing in competitions all around the world together for years. They’d had a very strict upbringing where they had to practice a lot—unlike the undisciplined parenting in Iceland, where children, even upcoming wunderkinds, are allowed to roam free.
Víkingur’s response was to become the hardest-working student in Juilliard, to catch up with the others—because he’d realised he wasn’t the best. At the same time, his fellows revelled in finally being given the freedom to escape their punishing childhood practice regimes. Raw talent means nothing if people don’t grow on their own. And nothing matters if you don’t put your soul into it. Because of his efforts, Iceland now has a classical music rockstar.
Read our feature on Víkingur here.