Of all the modern-classical instrumental ambient avant-garde European Eno-ite men, Ólafur Arnalds is probably my favourite. The Albert Hall was almost too fitting of a venue to host Ólafur. The ornate remnants of the Christian architecture, coupled with the entire room being seated, made for an atmosphere that felt akin to worship and complimented his ethereal compositions. It all felt very high-culture, as if I was the in minority of people there to not have a specific pair of ‘weekend shoes’, but I suppose a maturer demographic is to be expected when dealing with a virtuoso like Ólafur.
As the centrepiece of the night, Ólafur stepped onto the stage and began to play. Reserved and delicate, the solo piano reverberated through the crowd as the rest of his ensemble slowly joined with their textures. It was blissful. Everything about the performance was meticulously planned; from the handpicked ensemble cast to the room temperature to the barren venue bars, the attention to detail for the sake of sound was honestly astonishing. The most notable spectacle of the night was definitely the Stratus Pianos. Mesmerising to the ears and to the eyes, it made for an experience that was genuinely unique and beautiful.
Punctuating the downtime between songs with some interesting anecdotes, Ólafur noted that in his youth he planned to study music in Manchester (ironically, he was rejected) as he’d loved a girl and this city she lived in. Judging from the sold-out performance, the consistently booming applause and this beaming review, I’d say that Manchester also loves Ólafur Arnalds.
Watch this space for our interview with Ólafur, coming soon!
Ólafur Arnalds performed at the Albert Hall on Sunday 30th September 2018. Words by Kim-Rangi.