BBC Radio 4’s flagship arts programme Front Row will broadcast performances by concert pianist Víkingur Ólafsson – the show’s Artist in Residence – during lockdown as part of the Culture in Quarantine initiative.

Ólafsson’s performances will be weekly and live – starting Thursday 9 April, when he will be performing his own transcription of Sigvaldi Kaldalóns’ Ave Maria – on the grand piano of the currently empty Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Additionally, each week will feature a mini masterclass about the piece before Ólafsson plays it live for Front Row listeners. At a time when concerts have been widely cancelled and live performances impacted, listeners will have the chance to experience the joy of a live, high sound-quality performance each week through Front Row working with Harpa Concert Hall and RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

Mohit Bakaya, Controller of Radio 4, says: “We are doing everything we can to keep giving listeners the joy and escapism Radio 4 provides because we know it’s more important now than ever. Front Row continues to bring the arts and culture into people’s homes, and I’m delighted there is now a special treat for listeners with this wonderful live performance and masterclass each week at a time when bringing audiences broadcast quality live music is a real challenge.”

Ólafsson says: “I am very happy to get to perform and talk about music on Front Row, the programme that has brought me so much inspiration and ideas over the years. Tonight I will be performing my own transcription of Sigvaldi Kaldalóns’ Ave Maria. Kaldalóns was a doctor and Ave Maria is by nature the perfect setting for this Thursday before Easter. I dedicate this prayer to all the people suffering but more specifically to all the health workers who are so selfless in the fight against COVID-19.”

Víkingur Ólafsson is one of the world’s most acclaimed pianists, whose latest album debuted at number one in the UK Specialist Classical chart last week.

Front Row continues to bring the world of arts and culture to listeners and at present broadcasts on Radio 4 Monday to Thursday at 7.15pm, with a temporarily extended edition on Fridays at 7pm.

Ólafsson’s Front Row performances will be repeated on BBC Radio 3’s Breakfast show on Mondays.


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