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CONTACT: Matthew Bengtson, 215-704-4600;
Publicist, Trish Doll, Publicity Works, 717-445-6377

Polish music society recognizes musician, Matthew Bengtson, for his work on Szymanowski

The pianist is recognized for shedding light on a lesser-known Polish composer. But Szymanowski once garnered plenty of recognition on his own.

Reading, PA - (August 13, 2004) - Whether Matthew Bengtson is performing in world-class venues like New York’s Carnegie Hall or France’s Orleans Competition, serenading the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC, navigating the backwaters of Kansas, or even releasing his first compact disc, he loves to promote the cause of Karol Szymanowski. The 20th century Polish composer has languished in relative obscurity, unlike his well-known and much beloved Polish predecessor Frederic Chopin. And unlike Chopin’s music, which is frequently performed, Szymanowski’s is not, unless the performer happens to be Bengtson, who enjoys programming Szymanowski in his recitals.

“This is wonderful, absolutely first rate music. Audiences need to know more about Szymanowski,” insists the Reading, PA native. “Szymanowski’s Mazurkas in particular have so much to offer, with an amazingly wide range of moods. I am convinced they are not a bit inferior to Chopinís Mazurkas.” Bengtson not only plays Szymanowski, he writes about him, too. This Polish master is relatively unknown in today’s music circles, but during the 1920’s he was widely recognized as one of the world’s leading composers and was admired by the likes of Bartók, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev. He was championed at the time by his friend Artur Rubinstein, and later, by the likes of Miecyslaw Horszowski and Sviatoslav Richter. Szymanowski made it his mission to re-invigorate Polish musical culture, which had fallen on hard times since the time of Chopin.

In 2003, for his paper entitled The Szymanowski Clash: Methods of Harmonic Analysis in the Szymanowski Mazurkas, Bengtson was awarded $500, as one of the Stefan & Wanda Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish Music. The prizes are sponsored by the Polish Music Center (PMC) and the School of Music of the University of Southern California. Bengtson’s paper will also be published in the Polish Music Journal, a new electronic publication at the PMC website. The prizes are awarded to authors of the best papers reflecting original research on some aspect of the music of Poland, preferably on a less researched topic or composer.

That would seem to fit the bill for a composer like Szymanowski, whose creative output spanned the years before World War I through the 1930s, but whose name is rarely found on today’s concert programs. Bengtson delights in performing seldom-heard and obscure works. “My favorite reaction from an audience is, ‘I love that music, but I’ve never heard of this composer. What else did he write? Why don’t people perform this music all the time?’”

His interest in Szymanowski flourished as a DMA candidate at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. His dissertation was entitled “Karol Szymanowski: Revitalizing the Solo Piano Mazurka Genre” and explored their context in music of that time, in Szymanowski’s output and in the history of the mazurka genre. It also contained substantial analytical work on the mazurkas, the kind of work that culminated in the Wilk Prize paper. In 2001, he read a paper entitled “The Mazurkas of Karol Szymanowski” as a Lowens Award finalist at the Capital Chapter of The American Musicological Society. With all this research and understanding of this music, together with his obvious enthusiasm for it, it’s no wonder that he chose as his debut CD recording “Karol Szymanowski: the Complete Mazurkas for Solo Piano.” The recording is available at

In addition to concertizing, Matthew Bengtson serves on the faculty of Settlement Music School in Philadelphia and the piano staff of the Curtis Institute of Music. Besides his musical attainments, Mr. Bengtson was educated at Harvard University with a focus in mathematics and computer science. He is a scholar of Latin and Greek, a 2-handicap golfer and a chess FIDE master (FM).

While he’s not necessarily predicting a full-blown revival of Szymanowski, Bengtson is hoping his passion will eventually spread over into the hearts, minds and hands of other performing pianists. Particularly the Mazurkas: “their harmonies are magnificently rich and complex,” writes Bengtson. “One can find tragedy, struggle and conflict, moments of whimsy and humor, passages of great sensual beauty, and also some good old-fashioned lively dancing.”

Mr. Bengtson has won numerous national and international piano awards and fellowships. He serves on the faculty of the Settlement Music School and staff of the Curtis Institute of Music, both in Philadelphia. He competes in chess; he is a FIDE master (FM) and National Master (NM) and a winner of the Midland Open in England. He has also won several amateur golf tournaments and sports a 2 handicap.

For performance inquiries or a copy of Matthew Bengtson’s CD entitled, “Karol Szymanowski: The Complete Mazurkas for Solo Piano” contact 215-704-4600.

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