Matthew BengtsonAssociate Professor of Music, Piano Literature
- 3060 Moore
Critically acclaimed as a “musician’s pianist,” Matthew Bengtson has a unique combination of musical talents ranging from extraordinary pianist, to composer, analyst, and scholar of performance practice, and thus is in demand as both soloist and collaborator. An advocate of both contemporary and rarely performed music, he commands a diverse repertoire, ranging from William Byrd to György Ligeti and numerous contemporary composers, including substantial ongoing projects with Roberto Sierra. He has been presented in concerts as a La Gesse Fellow in France, Germany, Italy and Hungary, in Washington, DC, at Monticello, and in solo recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. He has also appeared on the Pro Musica series in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He has performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras and has appeared with violinist Joshua Bell on NPR’s “Performance Today” and XM Satellite Radio’s “Classical Confidential.” His recordings can be heard on the Roméo, Arabesque, Albany, Musica Omnia, Griffin Renaissance, and Navona record labels.
Mr. Bengtson is lauded as one of the most persuasive advocates of the music of Scriabin and Szymanowski. On his recordings of the 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 to what Bengtson achieves on this disc.” In Fanfare magazine he has been called “a Scriabinist for the 21st century … upon whom future generations can rely for definitive interpretations.” He marked the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death with numerous all-Scriabin recitals, including performances of the complete Sonatas in Philadelphia and Chicago and a multi-sensory festival “Scriabin in the Himalayas” in Ladakh, India that was planned as the source of a documentary on the composer and his visions.
Equally devoted to the music of Karol Szymanowski, he has recorded a 3-CD set of the solo piano and violin/piano duo repertoire 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 programs across the United States and in Poland, including the Karol Szymanowski museum in Zakopane. His analytical paper on the harmonic language of the Szymanowski mazurkas is published in the Canadian music journal Intersections.
An enthusiast of early keyboard instruments, Mr. Bengtson performs on harpsichord and fortepiano, both as a soloist and as a collaborator in the Ensemble Aurelio, with cellist John Haines-Eitzen in the Sierra Duo, with Tempesta di Mare, and accompanying singers such as baritone Max von Egmond and sopranos Laurie Heimes and Julianne Baird. He performs on a copy of a 1785 Anton Walter fortepiano made by Gerard Tuinman in Utrecht. His recordings of the Charles West Wilson collection are available from Griffin Renaissance Records, and recordings of his fortepiano and harpsichord are available from Arabesque Recordings. His educational video on fortepianos, popular on YouTube and on MindTV, is a helpful introduction to the world of the Viennese 5-octave instrument. Mr. Bengtson teaches fortepiano at the University of Michigan and at UMEKI, the University of Michigan Early Keyboard Institute held annually in the summer. His students took the top two prizes at the inaugural Sfzp International Fortepiano Competition in New York.
Highly regarded as an educator and a thoughtful writer on music, he is co-author of The Alexander Scriabin Companion, for Rowman and Littlefield Press, and a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) series entitled “Exploring Piano Literature: the Piano Sonata.” His articles can be found in the New Beethoven Forum, Intersections, and the Journal of the Scriabin Society of America. He has taught at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music and been a staff pianist at the Curtis Institute. He is currently Assistant Professor of Piano Literature at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance, where he teaches piano, fortepiano, and courses and seminars on piano repertoire.
Mr. Bengtson studied piano performance as a Harvard undergraduate with Patricia Zander. He also studied contemporary piano literature 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 fellowship at Cornell University. In Europe, he studied at the Internationale Sommerakademie “Mozarteum” in Salzburg, Austria, and 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.
Besides his musical attainments, Mr. Bengtson was educated at Harvard University with a focus in mathematics and computer science. Mr. Bengtson is a Steinway Artist.
Selected Scholarly Publications
Lincoln Ballard and Matthew Bengtson, with John Bell Young. The Alexander Scriabin Companion: History, Performance, and Lore. With a foreword by Stephen Hough. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Press, 2017.
“’The Szymanowski Clash’: Harmonic Conflict and Ambiguity in the Szymanowski Mazurkas.” In Intersections: The Canadian Journal of Music 36/1 (2016), 3-27.
“Interpretive Questions in the Diabelli Variations.” In New Beethoven Forum Vol. 12, Spring 2005: 97-110.
“Karol Szymanowski: Masterworks for violin & piano; piano solo.” Musica Omnia MO 0703, 2017. 3-CD set.
“Scriabin Piano Sonatas: Volume II.” Roméo Records, Roméo 7280, 2015. CD.
“A Harpsichord Performance: Byrd, Handel, Rameau, Bach.” Arabesque Recordings Z6818, 2011. Digital download.
“Alexander Scriabin: Six Sonatas.” Roméo Records, Roméo 7232, 2004. CD.
“Roberto Sierra: Works for Cello and Piano” with cellist John Haines-Eitzen, TROY 1700. CD.
AB (computer science), Harvard University
MM (piano), Peabody Institute
DMA (piano), Peabody Institute