Martin T:son Engstroem was born in Stockholm in 1953 where he received his schooling and a degree in Music History from the University of Stockholm. His father was the sculptor Torolf Engström and mother Inge Rosenfeld-Engström.
He began early his career as organizer of concerts by creating his own series of Sunday afternoon concerts for young Swedish musicians at the National Museum in Stockholm. This series became the leading window for young Swedish talent through the 1970s. Still a teenager he also arranged major concerts in Stockholm for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Antal Dorati and Staffan Scheja.
1972-1973 he worked for one year at the Foreign Division of Ibbs & Tillett artists’ management in London mainly dealing with British artists performing abroad. Here he worked a.o. with John Ogdon, Shura Cherkassky and many UK orchestras.
In 1975, Engstroem moved to Paris to become partner in the artists management company ‘Opéra et Concert’. During the 12 years with the agency, he worked intimately with many major artists such as Karl Böhm, Birgit Nilsson, Jessye Norman, Lucia Popp, Renato Bruson and Leonard Bernstein. His prime interest was to develop new talent and many of the young musicians he represented went on to major careers such as Barbara Hendricks, Neil Shicoff, Han-Na Chang and Giuseppe Sinopoli.
During many years he enjoyed a close collaboration with Herbert von Karajan.
After having moved to Switzerland in 1987 with his wife, soprano Barbara Hendricks and their two children, he worked for a period of time as consultant to EMI France, the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele and the Paris Opera (co-organizer of the opening of l’Opéra de Paris / Bastille in 1992 with Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas and Robert Wilson). Engstroem was instrumental in the choice of Myung-Whun Chung as Artistic Director of l’Opéra de Bastille.
In 1991 he started to put together what in 1994 became the Verbier Festival & Academy for which he remains the artistic and executive head as Founder & Director. The Verbier Festival has over the years developed into one of the most innovative performing arts communities in Europe. In 2000, Engstroem, together with the Swiss bank UBS developed what became one of the most attractive training orchestras in the world, the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra, with James Levine as its Music Director. Charles Dutoit followed as Music Director in 2009 and Valery Gergiev, the present Music Director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra started in 2018.
2005 saw the beginning of the UBS Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra which immediately enjoyed a close association with Maxim Vengerov through major tours and a highly successful EMI recording of Mozart Violin Concertos. In 2008 Gabór Takács-Nagy was named Music Director of the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra.
Between 1999 and 2003, Engstroem was Vice President of Artists & Repertoire of Deutsche Grammophon (and between 2003 and 2005, Senior Executive Producer & Artists Development). He was directly responsible for the recording projects of many major artists such as Anne-Sophie Mutter, Pierre Boulez, Claudio Abbado and Maurizio Pollini to name but a few. Among the new artists he signed to DG were Anna Netrebko, Lang Lang, Yundi Li, Hélène Grimaud, Ilya Gringolts, Hilary Hahn and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
He has been a jury member of numerous competitions: in 2005 at the 50th anniversary of the Paganini Competition in Genoa, in 2006 he was invited by Galina Vishnewskaja to be on the jury of her first vocal competition in Moscow. In 2009 Thomas Quasthoff invited him to Berlin as a jury member for the ‘Das Lied’ Competition. In 2009, 2011, 2013 (the last two years he was the President of the Jury) he was a member of the Clara Haskil Competition, and in 2010 member of the jury for the Geneva Competition (voice). In 2014 he was a member of the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv. Engstroem has had a long-term relationship with the Tchaikovsky Competition; in 2011 he was a member of the violin jury and in 2015 he was a member of the piano jury; in 2019 he chaired the violin jury.
In June 2011, The Nobel Foundation in Lindau induced Martin T:son Engstroem and Bill Gates to their Honorary Senate. The Foundation thereby recognized “their sustained personal commitment to supporting and encouraging young talents by opening the door to future opportunities.”
From 2013 to 2016 he was a Member of the Board of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne and of the Board of Governors of the Glion Institute of Higher Studies. From 2014 to 2017 he was also a Board member of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva.
In April 2015, Engstroem received the Dmitri Shostakovich Prize at a ceremony held at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, in Moscow. Awarded by the Yuri Bashmet Foundation, the recognition is considered to be one of the most prestigious prizes in the field of Russian art. He is the first laureate of the Dmitri Shostakovich Prize who is not a musician.
Engstroem has also worked as Global Advisor on Artistic Planning for IMG Artists and as consultant for Rolex in developing artistic projects in China and India.
Since 2016 he has been a Board Member of the Macao Festival and, in 2018, became Artistic Director both of the Tsinandali Festival in Georgia and of the Riga Jurmala Festival in Latvia.
Engstroem now lives on the shores of Lac Leman in Switzerland with his second wife Blythe Teh-Engstroem and their two daughters.