Pianist Vikingur Olafsson’s Princeton Recital: Absolutely Brilliant

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
Internationally renowned pianist Vikingur Olafsson performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations February 8, 2024, at Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium. 
The absolute brilliance of his interpretation left the audience speechless. This was music making of unparalleled excellence which was breathtaking.
Vikingur Olafsson, born 1984, in Reykjavik, Iceland, has won many prestigious awards and made many excellent recordings, in addition to personal appearances on many of the world’s stages, often with the best orchestras. For this year, he will be performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations exclusively on a world tour. The Richardson Auditorium, in Alexander Hall, on the Princeton University campus is a sterling venue. With just 891 seats, it is perfect for recitals. Its acoustics are outstanding, as are the sightlines.
The Hall was darkened, with the pianist in a pool of light. No one was allowed in once the recital began. An usher explained to us that Mr. Olafsson didn’t want distractions while he played, so no one would be allowed entrance once he began to play. From the first minutes he began playing, his mastery of the instrument was obvious. As he went through the Variations, the variety, nuance, and subtlety of each was astonishing. If you grew up hearing Zuzana Ruzickova playing Bach on harpsichord, this is a totally different sound world. Even hearing the esteemed harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, in a breathtaking Princeton recital a few seasons ago, could not prepare the listener for the unalloyed splendor of this evening’s Goldberg Variations.
No sounds from the sold-out house could be heard until Variation 17, when someone in the audience sneezed. Every person was enraptured throughout. 
Mr. Olafsson was spellbound during the entire concert, absolute concentration was joined with astonishments of sound and execution every second. When the recital ended, the audience leapt to its collective feet at once, awarding the genius on stage to several rapturous rounds of hearty applause. Mr. Olafsson returned with a microphone to say that an encore for him was impossible, and that he had played Carnegie Hall the night before! Absolutely incredible. The esteemed artist skipped off the stage afterwards. Ah, Youth! Ah, Beauty!
Mr. Vikingur Olafsson’s Goldberg Variations is available on DG records, available wherever you choose to purchase your music. Princeton University Concerts continue into May 2024. for further information, visit …
www.concerts.princeton.edu or 609-258-9220.

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