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Gregor Benko (born August 4, 1944 Cleveland, Ohio) is an American writer, lecturer, record producer, and collector-historian whose primary focus is classical piano performance documented on recordings from (or having to do with) the Romantic Era. His work helped lay the groundwork for the "Romantic Revival," which continued on into the 21st century.
He was the founder, along with Albert Petrak, of the International Piano Archives (initially named the International Piano Library but later changed due to state law). Benko managed the non-profit institution for two decades, attracting Spanish virtuosa Alicia de Larrocha to act as the President of the corporation, and building an enormous collection of recordings, scores, memorabilia and associated matter concerning concert pianists. In 1977 Benko donated the collections to the University of Maryland, College Park, where they formed the nucleus of the International Piano Archives at Maryland.
Perhaps Benko's most hailed achievement to date is the unearthing and publishing of all known recordings of the Polish virtuoso Josef Hofmann, as well as dozens of historic recordings by other "golden age" pianists. He is also credited with rediscovering and bringing back to public awareness the elderly and reclusive Hungarian piano virtuoso Ervin Nyiregyházi. The recordings that Benko produced, initially for the International Piano Archives, as well as new recordings he made with Nyiregyházi that were issued by Columbia Records, were heatedly discussed for a time due to the pianist's enormous dynamic range and willful interpretive style. Well-regarded critic Harold C. Schonberg - also a devotee of Romantic pianism - called one of them "a divine madness."
Benko had almost no formal education, but credits his close relationships with Schonberg and Frank Cooper, founder of the Festival of Neglected Romantic Music at Butler University, as the most important professional associations in his life, and considers each a mentor.
Benko's later career has included lecturing, articles, reviews, liner notes. With Edward Blickstein, he is the co-author of Chopin's Prophet, the Life of pianist Vladimir de Pachmann. He has been engaged for over thirty years in work on a comprehensive biography of Josef Hofmann.
Benko was awarded the American Liszt Society medal at the 2017 Festival of The American Liszt Society in April 2017. The citation for the medal concludes with these words by Dr. Richard Zimdars: "Gregor’s life work has made and will continue to make a priceless contribution to preserving the aural and documentary history of piano performance in the twentieth century for listeners, performers, scholars, and Lisztians. It is fitting to award him the Medal of The American Liszt Society" (the full citation can be read in The American Liszt Society, Volume 33, no. 1, p. 16, which is online at http://www.americanlisztsociety.net/newsletters/24LisztNLVol33No1.pdf).
- November 21, 2004 RECORDINGS Best of the Very Worst, or Music's Greatest Misses By ANNE MIDGETTE New York Times
- ERWIN NYIREGYHAZI DIES AT 84; PIANIST REGAINED FAME IN 70'S New York Times By John Rockwell Published: Thursday, April 16, 1987