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There's warmth and clarity on Vikingur Olafsson's 'Mozart & Contemporaries' / LIMELIGHT - Editors Choice

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After the global successes of Philip Glass · Piano Works, Johann Sebastian Bach, Debussy · Rameau and Debussy · Rameau Reflections (227.5 million career streams to date and over 320K albums sold), multi-award-winning pianist Víkingur Ólafsson now turns his attention to the music of MOZART. Ólafsson presents some of his favourite Mozart keyboard works in the company of pieces by a selection of the composer's leading contemporaries. Juxtaposing works by Mozart, Haydn and C.P.E. Bach with rarely-recorded Galuppi and Cimarosa, Mozart & Contemporaries dispels the image of Mozart as the angelic and prodigious idiot savant, instead presenting a mature composer through music primarily dating from the 1780s: a resourceful, hard-working adult who had come to know adversity. All is artfully brought together by Ólafsson's signature thought-provoking programming. 

LIMELIGHT - Rebecca Franks writes.....There's always an element of discovery (though never didacticism) with Ólafsson's albums, and here he explores the world around Mozart. The first notes we hear – in a minor-key, full of urgent anticipation – are not by Mozart at all, but by Baldassare Galuppi, the Venetian father of comic opera. It makes sense: even in his instrumental works, Mozart never lost his operatic genius. Ólafsson makes the yearning gestures and haunting melodies of two Sonatas by Neopolitan opera composer Domenico Cimarosa sing; the theatre stage seems just in reach. These two brief pieces are heard in the pianist's own arrangements, and Olafsson tells a charming story about the Sonata No 55. He couldn't get the "gorgeous golden melody" out of his mind during his recording sessions, so in a break he transcribed it, then arranged and recorded it there and then.

Ólafsson sounds utterly at home and natural in the studio, even more himself, perhaps, than on stage. There's warmth and clarity in the recording that allows his playing to flourish; the tone is almost plain, yet deceptively so, as the result is beautiful and intimate. His technique is crisp, his musical thinking always lucid. Listen to the lovely articulation in the Haydn Sonata No 47, for instance, or the navigation of the quicksilver moods of CPE Bach's Rondo II in D Minor.