Joan Benson (October 9, 1925 – January 1, 2020) was an American keyboard player who specialized in the clavichord and fortepiano.[1]

Joan Benson
Joan benson.jpg
Background information
BornOctober 9, 1925
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
DiedJanuary 1, 2020(2020-01-01) (aged 94)
Eugene, Oregon, United States
GenresRenaissance, Viennese Classic, Contemporary[1]
Occupation(s)Keyboard player, teacher, writer
InstrumentsClavichord, fortepiano
Years active1962–2019
WebsiteJoan Benson: Clavichord & Early Piano


Benson was of Swedish descent. Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, she spent her childhood in New Orleans, where she attended Metairie Park Country Day School, one of the first progressives schools in the South. Its emphasis on creativity encouraged her talents in music, painting and poetry.

At sixteen, she studied with pianist-composer Percy Grainger at Interlochen’s Summer Music Camp. At seventeen, she attended Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts studying with Boris Godowsky and Melville Smith. It was here she first heard a clavichord –Erwin Bodky, a faculty member, playing several preludes and fugues by J. S. Bach.

Educated at the University of Illinois (B.Mus., M.Mus. 1951) and Indiana University (1953), she received instruction in Europe from Edwin Fischer, Guido Agosti, Olivier Messiaen, Viola Thern, Fritz Neumeyer, Ruggero Gerlin, and Macario Santiago Kastner before returning to the United States in 1960 to pursue dual careers as a concert keyboardist and university professor.[1][2] She debuted on the clavichord at the Carmel Bach Festival in 1963[1] and went on to perform at many concerts in the United States, Europe, and the Far East.[2] From 1968 through 1976, she taught at Stanford University until joining the faculty at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where she taught through 1987.[2] In 1980, she also joined the faculty of the Aston Magna Music Festival in Massachusetts.[1] Among her varied interests was Buddhist meditation.[1] She has been credited with helping to revive interest in the fortepiano and the work of C. P. E. Bach.[1] She died on January 1, 2020 at the age of 94.[3][4]




  • Clavichord for Beginners, Indiana University Press, 2014[11]

Articles in booksEdit

  • "The Effect of Clavichord Technique on the Fortepiano", Internationaler Joseph Haydn Kongress, Wien, 1982, G. Henle Publishing House, Munich (1986)[12]
  • "The Clavichord in 20th-Century America", in Livro de Homenagem a Macario Santiago Kastner, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon (1992)[12]
  • "Clavichord Technique in the Mid-Twentieth Century", Proceedings of the International Clavichord Symposium, Magnano, 9–11 September 1993, Istituto per I Beni Musicali in Piemonte, Torino (1994)[13]
  • "Clavichord Perspectives from Goethe to Pound", De Clavicordio VI, The International Centre for Clavichord Studies, Musica Antica a Magnano, Italy (2004)[14]
  • "Studying with Macario Santiago Kastner a Half-Century Ago", De Clavicordio VIII, The Clavichord on the Iberian Peninsula, The International Centre for Clavichord Studies, Musica Antica a Magnano, Italy (2008)[15]
  • "The Interplay of Clavichord and Piano", De Clavicordio XI, The International Centre for Clavichord Studies, Musica Antica a Magnano, Italy (2014)[16]
  • "Teaching the Clavichord in Our Electronic World", De Clavicordio XII, The International Centre for Clavichord Studies, Musica Antica a Magnano, Italy (2015), published 2017.

Articles in magazinesEdit

  • "Recollections of Edwin Fischer" (T. Tikker), Journal of the American Liszt Society, Vol. 21, January−June 1987.
  • "Bach and the Clavier", Clavier Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 2, February 1990.
  • "Qigong for Pianists", Piano and Keyboard, No. 194, September–October 1998
  • "Piano to Clavichord (1925–1962)", Clavichord International, Het Nederlands Clavichord Genootschap, Vol. 10, No. 2, November 2006
  • "An Interview with Joan Benson" Clavichord International, Het Nederlands Clavichord Genootschap, Vol. 18, No. 2, November 2014
  • "Getting Started: Clavichord", Early Music Today, Rhinegold Publishing, London, United Kingdom, (June-August 2017)
  • "När fingret träffar tangenten", Tidig Music, Stockholm, Sweden, (October, 2017)


  • "Aged Woman Looking at a Man", Barren", "Antichrist 1986", Writers of Age, Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, Spring/Summer 1981


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Schott, Howard. "Benson, Joan". Grove Music Online; Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ a b c Joan Benson. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians: Biography in Context. New York: Schirmer. 2001.
  3. ^ "Joan Benson Obituary – Eugene, Oregon". The Register-Guard. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  4. ^ Lebrecht, Norman. "Death of leading US clavichordist, 94". Slipped Disc. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  5. ^ "Joan Benson, Clavichord". WorldCat. OCLC 16959600. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  6. ^ "Music of C. P. E. Bach". Orion. 1976. OCLC 3531828. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  7. ^ "Works of Haydn and Pasquini". Cambridge, Massachusetts: Titanic Records. 1982. OCLC 8970132. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "Clavichord Music of Johann Kuhnau and C. P. E. Bach". WorldCat. ISBN 9780253388810. OCLC 20440485. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  9. ^ "The Clavichord: Music of Johann Kuhnau and C. P. E. Bach: 18th Century". AllMusic. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Brauchli, Bernard (2015). "Clavichord for Beginners by Joan Benson". Performance Practice Review. 20 (1): 1. doi:10.5642/perfpr.201520.01.02. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  11. ^ Benson, Joan (2014). "Clavichord for Beginners". Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-01164-0. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Knights, Francis (March 1995). "The Clavichord: A Comprehensive Bibliography". The Galpin Society Journal. 48: 52–67. doi:10.2307/842803. JSTOR 842803.
  13. ^ "De Clavicordio [I]". OMI – Old Manuscripts & Incunabula. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  14. ^ "De Clavicordio VI". OMI – Old Manuscripts & Incunabula. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  15. ^ "De Clavicordio VIII". OMI – Old Manuscripts & Incunabula. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  16. ^ "De Clavicordio XI". OMI – Old Manuscripts & Incunabula. Retrieved October 5, 2016.

External linksEdit