The American conductor, harpsichordist, organist and music pedagogue, Matthew Dirst, obtained his Bachelor of Music fegreefrom the University of Illinois; his Master of Music in organ and Master of Sacred Music degrees from Southern Methodist University; and his PhD in musicology from Stanford University. He received the coveted prix de virtuosité in both organ and harpsichord from the Conservatoire National de Reuil-Malmaison in France, where he spent two years as a Fulbright scholar, studying with teachers Marie-Claire Alain and Huguette Dreyfus. He did further harpsichord study with Alan Curtis at University of California at Berkeley. He is the first American musician to win major international prizes in both organ and harpsichord, including first prize at the American Guild of Organists National Young Artist Competition (1990) and second prize at the inaugural Warsaw International Harpsichord Competition (1993).
Matthew Dirst is Professor of Music at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, where he teaches courses in music history and performance practice. He is also Founder and Artistic Director of Ars Lyrica Houston, a Grammy-nominated ensemble that specializes in Baroque chamber and dramatic works.
Equally active as a performer and scholar, Matthew Dirst's publications on the music of J.S. Bach and its reception appear in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Early Music, Notes: The Journal of the American Music Library Association, Music and Letters, Bach Perspectives, and Eighteenth-Century Studies. He is also the author of a recent book entitled Engaging Bach: The Keyboard Legacy from Marpurg to Mendelssohn (Cambridge University Press, 2012). Organized around the most productive ideas generated by J.S. Bach’s keyboard works from his own day to the middle of the nineteenth century, this study shows how J.S. Bach’s remarkable and long-lasting legacy took shape amid critical changes in European musical thought and practice. In the words of one prominent reviewer, it is “a compelling and readable survey, one marked by clarity, judgement and nuance” (Early Music, February 2013).
Widely admired for his stylish playing and conducting of Baroque music especially, Matthew Dirst was hailed by the Dallas Morning News for his “crisp but expressive direction” of the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers, which it named “Best Classical Performance of 2010.” Early Music America described his recent solo recording, of harpsichord works by François Couperin and Armand-Louis Couperin (Centaur), as a “stylish, tasteful, and technically commanding performance…expressive and brilliant playing.” Dirst’s recordings of music by Alessandro Scarlatti and Domenico Scarlatti and Johann Adolf Hasse with Ars Lyrica Houston on the Naxos and Sono Luminus labels have earned a Grammy nomination for Best Opera 2011 and widespread critical acclaim. His recent performances of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) were praised as “an extremely taut and accurate traversal” (The New York Sun), “a technically dazzling, deeply moving performance” (Houston Chronicle), “of irresistible rhythmic impulse [and] dazzling virtuosity” (Dallas Morning News). His most recent recording, J.S. Bach Organ Music for the Christmas Season, has just been released on the Centaur label and is available for purchase at all Ars Lyrica Houston performances.
Matthew Dirst also serves as Organist at St Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston.