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. 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, which is planned as the source of a documentary on the composer and his vision.
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.
Recent projects have included numerous performances, premieres, and recordings of the music of renowned Puerto Rican-born composer Roberto Sierra, including his formidable 12 Estudios rítmicos y sonoros. Recordings include an album of cello and piano music with cellist John Haines-Eitzen (of the “Sierra Duo”) and an upcoming album of solo piano music on the Ibis Classical label, recorded in Auditorio Manuel de Falla in Granada, Spain.
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, 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.
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. 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.
Highly regarded as an educator and a thoughtful writer on music, he is the author of the recent Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) series “Exploring Piano Literature: the Piano Sonata,” available on Coursera. He is also co-author of The Alexander Scriabin Companion, for Rowman and Littlefield Press. 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. Besides his musical attainments, Mr. Bengtson was educated at Harvard University with a focus in mathematics and computer science. He is a competitive golfer, a dan-level go player, and a chess FIDE master (FM).
Mr. Bengtson is a Steinway Artist.