URSULA OPPENS is one of the few pianists before the public today who has won equal renown as an interpreter of the established repertoire and a champion of contemporary music. Her performances of music old and new are marked by a powerful grasp of the composer’s musical intentions and an equally sure command of the keyboard’s resources.
Ms. Oppens has been presented in recital by leading concert series and has appeared as soloist with major orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. In addition to recent engagements with the Chicago and Cleveland Symphonies, she has been soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the San Francisco, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Houston, Cincinnati, and Seattle symphonies, as well as the St. Paul and Los Angeles chamber orchestras. She has given recitals at New
York’s Town Hall and Metropolitan Museum of Art; Orchestra Hall in Chicago; and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Throughout her career Ms. Oppens has played at many of the world’s major festivals, including those in Aspen, Tanglewood, Santa Fe, Ojai, Music Academy of the West, Edinburgh, Bonn, Cabrillo, Stresa, Bath, Bergamo, Brescia, Japan, and the Holland Festival. She has also been heard in recital and concerto performances at many European music centers, including the South Bank Center and the BBC Broadcasting House in London, the Vienna Radio Orchestra, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and in Stockholm, Brussels, Geneva, and Bonn. She has also been the subject of a profile on CBS Sunday Morning, as well as of feature articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times.
In May of 2002 Ms. Oppens received the Letters of Distinction Award at the American Music Center’s 38th annual presentation ceremony. The award pays tribute to those individuals who have made extraordinary contributions towards the advancement of American contemporary music. Past recipients include George Balanchine, Leonard Bernstein, Elliott Carter, Philip Glass, and Virgil Thompson.
Ursula Oppens has been a long-standing champion of programs that offer new American music juxtaposed with traditional masterworks. A recent presentation of several Beethoven sonatas on one such combined program at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre was lauded by Allan Kozinn of The New York Times: “... she presented a very human Beethoven, not an idealized philosopher king but a composer with a more earthly passion.”
A highlight of Ms. Oppens’s 1999-2000 season was a concert at Carnegie Hall featuring the premiere of intermediate level compositions by ten composers, two of which were performed by Ms. Oppens and the rest performed by conservatory students chosen by audition. These works have been recorded and published as “The Millennium Book,” by Boosey & Hawkes.
A co-founder of Speculum Musicae, Ms. Oppens has recorded extensively. She received two Grammy nominations: for her Vanguard recording of Frederic Rzewski’s “The People United Will Never Be Defeated,” and for “American Piano Music of Our Time,” a classic compilation of piano works by 20th century American composers for the Music & Arts label.
Ms. Oppens studied piano with her mother, the late Edith Oppens, as well as with Leonard Shure and Guido Agosti, and received her master’s degree at The Juilliard School, where she studied with Felix Galimir and Rosina Lhévinne. As an undergraduate at Radcliffe College, she studied English literature and economics. A native New Yorker, Ms. Oppens made her New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1969 under the auspices of Young Concert Artists. She won first prize in the Busoni International Piano Competition that same year, and was awarded the Diploma d’onore of the Accademia Chigiana in 1970. In 1976 she won an Avery Fisher Career Grant, which led to a performance with the New York Philharmonic. Ms. Oppens can be heard on Angel, Arista, Audivis, BMG, Bridge, CBS Masterworks, CP2, CRI, De Note, Koch International Classics, Music and Arts, Vanguard, New Albion, New World, Nonesuch, and Watt Works. Ms. Oppens, who was appointed John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music at Northwestern University in 1994, lives in Manhattan.