URSULA OPPENS, one of the very first artists ever to grasp the importance of programming traditional and contemporary works in equal measure, has won a singular place in the hearts of her public, critics, and colleagues alike. Her sterling musicianship, uncanny understanding of the composer’s artistic argument, and lifelong study of the keyboard’s resources, have placed her among the elect of performing musicians.
During the 2007/08 season, Oppens has been heard in New York at Merkin Hall in a world premiere by William Bolcom and at Symphony Space in a recital of solo works by Elliott Carter. She will also be heard in recital in San Diego and Los Angeles. This season she is recording all the solo piano works of Carter for Cedille Records and the complete solo works of Tobias Picker for Wergo Records.
In the fall of 2008, Oppens will take up her new post as Distinguished Professor of Music at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. From 1994 through the end of this season, she has served as John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.
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 Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, and Metropolitan Museum of Art; Orchestra Hall in Chicago; and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
An enduring commitment to integrating new music into regular concert life has led Oppens to commission and premiere countless compositions. Among these are works by such varied composers as Anthony Braxton, Elliott Carter, Anthony Davis, John Harbison, Julius Hemphill, Tania Leon, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Conlon Nancarrow, Tobias Picker, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Singleton, Joan Tower, Lois V Vierk, Christian Wolff, Amnon Wolman, and Charles Wuorinen. She has often worked with composers, making her extensive knowledge of the piano and its resources available to them as part of the creative process. Oppens’ involvement in this process often gives a contemporary, newly minted edge to her performances of the established repertoire.
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, 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. A co-founder of Speculum Musicae, in 1976 Oppens won an Avery Fisher Career Grant, which led to a performance with the New York Philharmonic. 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. Oppens lives in New York City.