Welcome to Reykjavík Midsummer Music 2019

I'm proud and happy to present the 7th Reykjavík Midsummer Music, a festival where some of the world's leading musicians gather in Harpa concert hall to spend a few bright, Icelandic summer evenings playing the most wonderful music at the edge of their seats.

Each concert is curated to include a thrilling mix of old and new works, highlighting unexpected connections and creating a fresh context for great music.

See you in Harpa, June 20-23.

Víkingur Ólafsson
Artistic Director

20 June

Minning um Flórens –
Souvenir de Florence

20:00 - Eldborg, Harpa

In the opening concert of Reykjavík Midsummer Music 2019 in the symphonic auditorium Eldborg Hall, three giants of German and Russian chamber music gaze inwards, reminisce on memorable persons and places, and contemplate life’s mysterious, bitter-sweet impermanence. The concert begins with Johannes Brahms’s final song cycle, Vier ernste Gesänge, or Four Serious Songs, which Brahms wrote during his beloved friend Clara Schumann’s last days. The song cycle is both mournful and strikingly beautiful, perfect for the dark, warm voice of Austrian baritone Florian Boesch. Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his magnificent Piano Trio No. 2 in the memory of a recently deceased friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, who had been a trusted ally to the composer through thick and thin – even Stalin’s persecution. The final work on the programme is brighter in spirits. Pjotr Tchaikovsky wrote his Souvenir de Florence inspired by the Italian city’s beauty and atmosphere. This extraordinary work was originally written for a string sextet, but now receives its Icelandic premiere in a brilliant new arrangement for piano trio by Matan Porat.


J. Brahms: Vier Ernste Gesänge
D. Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 2 in E-minor
P. Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence (Arr. for piano trio: M. D. Porat)


Florian Boesch, baritone, Ilya Gringolts, violin, Yura Lee, violin, Leonard Elschenbroich, cello, Jakob Koranyi, cello, Víkingur Ólafsson, piano

“Absolutely unmissable” — Reykjavík Grapevine

21 June

Skrifast á –

20:00 - Norðurljós, Harpa

In classical music, time is relative. Contemporary musicians enjoy collaborative conversations with music of the past that are both creative and innovative. This applies particularly well to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, who, despite being considered old fashioned in his own time, constantly brings fresh tidings to contemporary ears – as can clearly be heard both in the elegant Sonata for violin and keyboard in F-minor and in the curious selection of arias featured in this programme. When it comes to musical conversations with colleagues of the past, few rival the Hungarian composer György Kurtág and his delicate miniatures – works that prove that the most impressive monuments are not necessarily the largest ones. In this concert, movements from Kurtág’s Hommage á Schumann for clarinet, viola and piano are intertwined with Robert Schumann’s own adventure tales for the same instruments, Märchenerzählungen, opening up a correspondence across the centuries for the audience to enjoy, before a contemporary composer, Mark Simpson, enters the conversation with his own homage to Kurtág. The concert ends with Schumann’s timeless song cycle, where Florian Boesch’s silky voice delivers intimate messages from the recent past.


J.S. Bach: Violin Sonata No. 5 in F-minor
R. Schumann: Märchenerzählungen (No. 1)
György Kurtág: Hommage à Robert Schumann (1+2)
R. Schumann: Märchenerzählungen (No. 2)
G. Kurtág: Hommage à Robert Schumann (3+4)
R. Schumann: Märchenerzählungen (No. 3)
G. Kurtág: Hommage à Robert Schumann (5+6)
R. Schumann: Märchenerzählungen (No. 4)
Mark Simpson: Hommage a Kurtág
J.S. Bach: Es ist vollbracht, BWV 159
J.S. Bach: Komm, süßer Tod, komm selge Ruh, BWV 478
J.S. Bach: Siehe, ich stehe vor der Tür, BWV 61
J.S. Bach: Bist du bei mir, BWV 508
R. Schumann: Liederkreis, Op 39


Florian Boesch, baritone, Mark Simpson, clarinet, Ilya Gringolts, violin, Yura Lee, viola, Víkingur Ólafsson, piano

“One of the musical highlights of the year” — Fréttatíminn

21 June

Næturtónar – Darkness Moves

(off-venue in Mengi)

23:15 - Mengi - Óðinsgata 2, 101 Reykjavík

Light and shadows meet in this midnight concert in Mengi in Óðinsgata. The programme opens with two heartrendering folk songs performed by Jakob Koranyi, Värmlandsvisan (also known as Dear Old Stockholm) and Song of the Birds (El Cant dels Ocells), made famous by the Catalan cellist Pablo Casals.We then move on into darker territory under the guidance of the festival’s composer in residence, Mark Simpson, one of the most exciting voices in contemporary music. In Darkness Moves for solo clarinet we get to experience his own performance in a work drawing its name from the title of the poetry collection by Belgian poet Henri Michaux where we are situated in a liminal space between this world and another – sometimes bordering on the nightmarish, full of dark fantasy – even hallucinations. We finish with Estonian master Arvo Pärt and his seminal work Fratres, one of the first works the composer wrote in his lucid and serene tintinnabuli-style after years of self-imposed silence. Fratres (1977) was written without fixed instrumentation and allows many different settings. Here we will enjoy the performance of violinist Yura Lee and pianist Víkingur Ólafsson.

The festival pass grants a 50% discount to this off-venue concert at Mengi. Full ticket price is 3.000 ISK. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door from 22:45 on the day of the concert at Mengi, Óðinsgata 2.


Swedish folk song: Värmlandsvisan
Cataloninan folk song
: Song of the Birds (arr. Pablo Casals)
Mark Simpson: Darkness Moves
Arvo Pärt: Fratres


Jakob Koranyi, cello, Yura Lee, violin, Víkingur Ólafsson, piano, Mark Simpson, clarinet

“Emotionally and intellectually stimulating” — Concerti Magazine

22 June

Fiðrildi og fiðurfé –
Butterflies and
Feathered Beasts

20:00 - Norðurljós, Harpa

The first half of this concert is held up by the wings of butterflies. The programme features two works by two giants of new Nordic music, both centered on the butterfly, the ultimate symbol of delicate impermanence. On one hand, after having enough of the bold passions of opera, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho turned her attention to butterflies in the year 2000 and wrote her Sept Papillon – Seven butterflies – a brilliant collection of miniatures for solo cello, where each movement represents a different perspective on this magical being and its motion. On the other, Danish composer Bent Sørensen wrote his grand trilogy of chamber music entitled Papillons in the years 2013-14, and its final installment, the piano quintet Rosenbad, is filled with mysterious and dreamlike sensations and emotions. After the intermission, other winged beasts take over, as the incomparable French piano duo Katia and Marielle Labèque play Ravel’s charming and graceful Mother Goose Suite. The final work of the concert brings even more beasts to the table – feathered as well as unfeathered ones. Camille Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals is incomparably frivolous and earnest at the same time – driven by the limitless inspiration of a composer in touch with his inner child.


K. Saariaho: Sept Papillons
B. Sørensen: Rosenbad: Papillons
M. Ravel: Mother Goose Suite (Ma mère l’Oye)
C. Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux)


Anahit Kurtikyan, violin, Ilya Gringolts, violin, Yura Lee, viola, Jakob Koranyi, cello, Jacek Karwan, double bass, Mark Simpson, clarinet, Emilía Rós Sigfúsdóttir, flute, Katia Labèque, piano, Marielle Labèque, piano, Steef van Oosterhout, percussion, Víkingur Ólafsson, piano

“Elevated beauty, not of this world” — Fréttablaðið

22 June


23:15 Norðurljós, Harpa


The amazing sound-world of Hans-Joachim Roedelius will be at the forefront at this late night concert at Harpa. The 85 year old living legend, still going strong , has been among the pioneers of experimental electronic and ambient music for decades and has had huge impact on musicians of all ages, all over the world. Here he invites us for a highly unpredictable and exciting musical journey, joined by other musicians of the RMM festival.


The festival pass grants a 50% discount to this off-venue concert. Full ticket price is 3.000 ISK. Discount tickets for festival pass can only be purchased at the box office at Harpa.



Roedelius: Works to be announced


Roedelius, Yura Lee, Víkingur Ólafsson

“World-class chamber music” — Icelandic National Radio

23 June

Lokatónleikar 2019 –
Grand Finale

20:00 Eldborg, Harpa

Reykjavík Midsummer Music’s Grand Finale concert in Eldborg spans a wide musical spectrum in which the artistic powers of this year’s incomparable roster of artists are on full display. The programme begins with the catchy, quasi-theatrical Overture on Hebrew Themes by Sergei Prokofjev – written for the unusual ensemble of a clarinet, string quartet and piano. A more serious atmosphere dominates Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 11 – a tightly woven work that despite its sparse style encompasses a whole world of fleeting memories and deep emotions. In fact, the same could be said about Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous piano concerto in F-minor, performed here by pianist Víkingur Ólafsson accompanied by a string quintet of festival artists. Its arrestingly graceful slow movement is one of the most beautiful slow movements in Bach’s entire oeuvre. The second half of the programme is centered on the piano and its possibilities, as elucidated by the foremost piano duet of our time, the French Labèque Sisters. In Sergei Rachmaninov’s Valse et Romance, however, a third pianist is needed – and Víkingur Ólafsson takes a seat between the two sisters in a thrilling, six-handed musical battle over the keyboard. The concert, and the festival itself, ends with a few brilliant minimalist works for piano duet by the two transatlantic prophets of divine simplicity – Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass.


S. Prokofiev: Overture on Hebrew Themes
J.S. Bach: Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F-minor
D. Shostakovich: String Quartet No 11
S. Rachmaninoff: Waltz and Romance
A. Pärt: Hymn to a Great City
P. Glass: The Poet Acts
P. Glass: Four Movements for Two Pianos


Ilya Gringolts, violin, Anahit Kurtikyan, violin, Yura Lee, viola, Leonard Elschenbroich, cello, Mark Simpson, clarinet, Jakob Koranyi, cello, Jacek Karwon, Double Bass, Katia Labèque, piano, Marielle Labèque, piano, Víkingur Ólafsson, piano


About the festival

Reykjavík Midsummer Music is an award-winning chamber music festival founded by pianist Víkingur Ólafsson in 2012. It takes place in Reykjavík’s magnificent concert hall, Harpa, every year around summer solstice – this year’s dates are 20 to 23 June. Since the festival’s inception, its goal has been to bring some of the best musicians of the world together in Reykjavík to play great music from all times under the arctic midnight sun. So far, it has been quite an adventure.

Reykjavík Midsummer Music is a festival for the curious ear. The programming is based on the notion that all the music we play and listen to today is, in a sense, contemporary music, regardless of whether it was composed in the 17th century or the 21st. When works from different times and places are brought together in the right way, each concert becomes a story which has never been told before. And that is exactly how we like it.

Join the mailing list

For your entertainment and enlightenment: Receive our latest news, information on dates and tickets, and, on special occasions, exclusive offers!

Main sponsor

THANK YOU to our generous and musical sponsors: