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B! Piano Music of Bach, Bartok & Brahms - Matt Bengtson

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B! Piano Music of Bach, Bartok & Brahms
Bengtson's 'B!' CD brings together the piano music of Bach, Bartok and Brahms
By Matt Bengtson

One 'B' is out. The other is in, representing the performer's interest in 20th century music

Philadelphia, PA - (September, 2004) - Bach meets Bartok meets Brahms on a new compact disc of piano music entitled 'B!' and recorded by pianist Matthew Bengtson. A concert pianist who has appeared on many of the world's stages, Bengtson recorded the works of these particular Three B's to represent the baroque, contemporary and romantic periods of music.

The expression "Three Bs" was coined by another distinguished pianist and composer, Hans von Bulow, who was referring to the three musical giants of history: Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Bartók later came to be known as the "Fourth B" and was chosen instead of Ludwig von Beethoven for this recording to reflect Bengtson's interest in twentieth-century music.

The CD begins with J.S. Bach's lively and spirited Partita no. 5 in G major. A favorite among pianists and audiences alike, the Partita comes alive with refreshing energy, beginning with the Praeambulum and concluding with the Gigue, an exhilarating contrapuntal maze whose lines intertwine throughout in clear relief, under Bengtson's hands. The delightful seven-movement suite incorporates so many of the baroque elements that Bach listeners have come to know and love. Bengtson's clarity of articulation and imaginative ornamentation are clearly informed by his study of the harpsichord.

Following the Partita and in stark contrast is the powerful, sometimes eerie music found in Bela Bartok's Out of Doors Suite. As Bengtson's liner notes suggest, this music reveals and confirms the composer's close kinship to folk music and his sense of the picturesque.

The recording ends with Johannes Brahms's Four Ballades, op. 10. Brahms was only 21 when he wrote the ballads, but such a work by this master even at a young age requires considerable maturity from a performer. Full of passion, drama and lyrical beauty, Brahms's Ballades characterize the period of German Romanticism when it was in full flower.

'B!' is a little over an hour long, and all selections were recorded as if they were being offered in live performance. Bengtson used this unedited approach to achieve "organic coherence over technical perfection." The recording sessions took place at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD, and West Chester University in West Chester, PA. 'B!' follows Bengtson's 2002 recording of Karol Szymanowski's 22 piano mazurkas. For his efforts in researching Szymanowski's mazurkas, Bengtson was awarded recently one of the Stefan & Wanda Wilk Prizes for Research in Polish Music.

©2004 Matthew Bengtson

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