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Matthew Bengtson, Piano
November 14, 2023
Matthew Bengtson, Piano

Karol Szymanowski: 

Etude in E-flat minor op. 4 no. 1

L’Île des Sirènes, from Metopes op. 29

Mazurkas op. 50 nos. 13 and 14

Alexander Scriabin: 24 Preludes, Op. 11

Critically acclaimed as a “musician’s pianist,” Matthew Bengtson has a unique combination of musical talents ranging from extraordinary pianist to composer, analyst, writer, scholar of performance practice, and educator. An advocate of both contemporary and rarely performed music, he offers a diverse repertoire, ranging from William Byrd to numerous contemporary composers with whom he actively collaborates. He has performed concerts as both soloist and collaborator in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Hungary, in Mexico, in Washington, DC, at Monticello, and in solo recitals at the  Weill Recital Hall. He has been heard with violinist Joshua Bell on NPR  Performance Today and XM Satellite Radio  Classical Confidential. His recordings are available on the Albany, Arabesque, Griffin Renaissance, IBS Classical, Musica Omnia, Navona, and Roméo record labels.

Mr. Bengtson is lauded as one of the most persuasive advocates of the music of Scriabin and Szymanowski. On his complete Scriabin Piano Sonatas, the American Record Guide writes: “Big-boned pianism, rich tonal colors, and dazzling technique are on display here. Has Scriabin ever been played better? Only Horowitz and Richter can compare. Fanfare Magazine calls him “a Scriabinist for the 21st century … upon whom future generations can rely for definitive interpretations.” In 2015, he toured with the complete Scriabin sonatas and performed in the historic centennial Scriabin in the Himalayas festival in Ladakh, India.

Equally devoted to the music of Karol Szymanowski, he has released a 3-CD recording of the solo piano and violin/piano duo music of the great Polish composer, together with violinist Blanka Bednarz, on the Musica Omnia label, again to critical acclaim. The duo has presented numerous all-Szymanowski duo/solo recitals across the United States and Poland, including the Karol Szymanowski Museum in Zakopane. His research on Szymanowski Mazurkas won a Stefan and Wanda Wilk Prize for Research in Polish Music and was published in the Canadian music journal Intersections.

Mr. Bengtson enjoys a close relationship with leading Puerto Rican-born composer Roberto Sierra, of whose music he has given numerous premieres, including his formidable 12 Estudios rítmicos y sonoros, recently recorded on the IBS Classical label in Auditorio Manuel de Falla in Granada, Spain. The disc was awarded the prestigious Melómano de Oro award. He performs in the Sierra Duo with cellist John Haines-Eitzen, with whom he recorded Sierra’s complete cello and piano music for Albany Records. The duo also enjoys playing piano trios in the “Archduke Trio” with violinist Aaron Berofsky.

Mr. Bengtson is among today’s proponents of historical performance practice, preferring to perform music, when possible, on instruments from the composer’s era. Old-style performing techniques he has used in his performances include improvised modulating preludes, ornamented reprises, and original cadenzas. He studied harpsichord with Webb Wiggins at Peabody and fortepiano with Malcolm Bilson at Cornell University. His video introduction to the Viennese 5-octave fortepiano has become a YouTube favorite. He has recorded on fortepiano and harpsichord for Arabesque Recordings. He has given presentations and performances at the Historical Keyboard Society of North America and the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, among others. His students took the top prizes at the inaugural sfzp International Fortepiano Competition in New York, and he teaches in the summer program University of Michigan Early Keyboard Institute (UMEKI).

Mr. Bengtson studied piano performance as a Harvard undergraduate with Patricia Zander. He also studied contemporary repertoire with Stephen Drury, and chamber music and performance practice with Robert Levin. He earned his MM and DMA degrees in piano performance at the Peabody Conservatory, studying with Ann Schein. He also studied harpsichord with Webb Wiggins and fortepiano with Malcolm Bilson on a special fellowship at Cornell University. He has participated in many American music festivals, such as the Aspen Music Festival, and the Baroque Performance Institute (BPI) at Oberlin Conservatory. In Europe, he studied at the Internationale Sommerakademie “Mozarteum” in Salzburg, Austria, at the Centre Acanthes in Avignon, with Claude Helffer, and at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, France, with Philippe Entremont. In Salzburg, he performed Boulez’s Sonata No. 1 in the Wiener Saal, and at Fontainebleau, he was awarded the Prix de la Ville de Fontainebleau for his performances.

Renowned as a writer and music educator, Mr. Bengtson is the author of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled  Exploring Piano Literature: The Piano Sonata, available on Coursera, and is co-author of The Alexander Scriabin Companion: History, Performance, and Lore, available from Rowman and Littlefield Press. He is an Associate Professor of Piano Literature at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, where he teaches piano, fortepiano, and courses and seminars in piano repertoire, history, and culture. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges, at Carnegie Mellon University School of Music, Bowling Green State University, and the Peabody Institute. He has also served on the collaborative piano staff at the Curtis Institute of Music. Besides his musical attainments, Mr. Bengtson was educated at Harvard University with a focus on mathematics and computer science. His interests include golf, chess, and go.

Mr. Bengtson is a Steinway Artist.