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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Víkingur Ólafsson Is Putting Iceland On The Classical Music Map

By Norman Lebrecht on March 13, 2020

Víkingur Olafsson Debussy & Rameau_

Debussy • Rameau / Víkingur Ólafsson (Deutsche Grammophon)

★★★★★

🎧 Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon

The place to go these days to hear French piano music is Iceland. The best-selling, innovative Bach interpreter Víkingur Ólafsson has taken a pair of French composers two centuries apart and effectively melded their music into one by the simple method of interleaving short pieces across a whole album.

The outcome is astonishing in respect of both Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) and Claude Debussy (1862-1918), revealing unsuspected aspects in both masters, as well as an underlying French expression in their music. Turn, for instance, from two little amusements in Debussy’s Children’s Corner to three Pièces de clavecin by Rameau and you remain quite comfortably within the same culture, the same formality and finesse, the same realm of understanding.

Heard beside Debussy, Rameau sounds more like JS Bach than I have heard before. Heard before and after Rameau, Debussy is less impressionistic, more direct. What the Icelander has found here is more penetrative and profound than a Titanic full of tenured musicologists and historically informed vegan performers. Not to mention the sheer sensual pleasure he delivers to the ear.

The album was recorded in Reykjavik last summer in the new Harpa concert hall by a team from the Genuin label. My only cavil is that the booklet fails to mention what piano is being played. The lower register sounds like a Steinway, but the middle and upper tones are too ethereal for one of those big beasts. We need to know. Meantime, enjoy. This is easily the most interesting release of the year, so far.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | COC’s Alexander Neef Responds To Rumors Of An Early Departure

By Michael Vincent on June 12, 2020

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) and General Director Alexander Neef respond to media speculation about his departure for Paris.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Caught Between Late-Romanticism And Atonality With Alexander Zemlinsky

By Norman Lebrecht on July 3, 2020

Like others of his generation, Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) was torn between late-romanticism and atonality — Lebrecht reviews The Mermaid.
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FEATURE | Clavier Class Teaches Kids Music Appreciation Through The Keyboard — And A Social Conscience

By Hye Won Cecilia Lee on June 23, 2020

Young educators Edmee Nataprawira and Pauline Feng are bringing summer learning home to children through a new program called Clavier Class.
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