Víkingur Ólafsson Wants To Change Your Mind About Mozart : Deceptive Cadence On his new album, Mozart & Contemporaries, the deep-thinking pianist from Iceland aims to debunk the image of Amadeus as the giggling savant by contrasting his music with that of his peers.

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Víkingur Ólafsson Wants To Change Your Mind About Mozart

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Pianist Vikingur Olafsson's fleet fingers have led some to call him Iceland's Glenn Gould.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART'S "RONDO IN D MAJOR, K. 485")

SHAPIRO: On his new album, called "Mozart & Contemporaries," Olafsson dispels myths about the famous composer while shedding light on the music scene of the late 18th century. NPR's Tom Huizenga has this review.

TOM HUIZENGA, BYLINE: When little Vikingur Olafsson was just 8, he threw a tantrum over Mozart.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART'S "PIANO SONATA NO. 16 IN C MAJOR, K. 545 'SONATA FACILE': I. ALLEGRO")

HUIZENGA: Olafsson couldn't manage the runs in this deceptive little sonata, so he scratched out the notes with his pencil. Since then, the 37-year-old pianist has made peace with Mozart. He's included the music on an album devoted to the composer plus a few from Mozart's cohort - musicians who thrived alongside him, such as the Italian Baldassare Galuppi.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF BALDASSARE GALUPPI'S "PIANO SONATA NO. 9 IN F MINOR: I. ANDANTE SPIRITOSO")

HUIZENGA: Once the most popular opera composer of his day, Galuppi was all but forgotten not long after he died in 1785. And that's just after Mozart wrote the powerful "Sonata No. 14" that looks far ahead of its time. Olafsson highlights the Beethoven-esque violence and Mozart's shattering use of silence.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART'S "PIANO SONATA NO. 14 IN C MINOR, K. 457: III. ALLEGRO ASSAI")

HUIZENGA: With this music, Olafsson illustrates his point. He wants to debunk the image of Amadeus as the lighthearted savant with a hyena laugh. There are dark shadows and despair in this music. Still, even in the midst of trouble, Mozart could sound impossibly upbeat, like this little gigue he wrote in May of 1789. With its bold harmonies and quirky rhythms, it sounds surprisingly modern.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART'S "KLEINE GIGUE IN G MAJOR, K. 574")

HUIZENGA: Mozart may have absorbed some of that radical sound from one of his heroes, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The second eldest son of Johann Sebastian and another Olafsson favorite, C.P.E. Bach's music features crazy hairpin turns, abrupt stops and a freewheeling off-the-cuff feel.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH'S "RONDO II IN D MINOR, H. 290")

HUIZENGA: Music of Joseph Haydn, Mozart's idol, makes an appearance on this album in a swift yet elegant rendition of the 47th Sonata. And so does music by Domenico Cimarosa, a comic opera genius for whom Mozart once wrote an aria. Here, Olafsson unearths and beautifully arranges one of Cimarosa's barely known keyboard sonatas brimming with operatic lyricism.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF DOMENICO CIMAROSA'S "SONATA NO. 42 IN D MINOR (ARR. OLAFSSON)")

HUIZENGA: I love how Vikingur Olafsson plays, but also how he thinks. This probing album that offers a Mozart attitude adjustment within the context of his peers ends with a sublime salute to one of the master's final pieces - a version of Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus," simple music that rises to the heavens.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART'S "AVE VERUM CORPUS, K. 618 (TRANSCR. LISZT FOR SOLO PIANO)")

SHAPIRO: The album is "Mozart & Contemporaries" by Vikingur Olafsson. Our reviewer is NPR's Tom Huizenga.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIKINGUR OLAFSSON PERFORMANCE OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART'S "AVE VERUM CORPUS, K. 618 (TRANSCR. LISZT FOR SOLO PIANO)")

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