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. In 2008, Ms. Oppens celebrated the 100th birthday of her friend and colleague, Elliott Carter, with critically acclaimed performances of his complete works for solo piano at the Boston Conservatory of Music, at Symphony Space, and at San Francisco Performances; and other appearances at Ravinia, Tanglewood, Merkin Hall, and elsewhere.
In the 2008-09 season, Ursula Oppens performed Messiaen's Visions de l'amen at New York City's Symphony Space, and returned for a solo recital joined by the New York Woodwind Quintet for Carter chamber music at New York City's Merkin Hall. Ms. Oppens also reunited with Mark Morris Dance Group for Mozart Dances, appearing in Toronto, on tour in New Zealand, and at the Kennedy Center.
Other highlights include a featured appearance at the Los Angeles Philharmonic's renowned Green Umbrella Festival; Lou Harrison's Piano Concerto at the Pacific Symphony Orchestra's American Composers Festival; Carter's Dialogues at the Tanglewood Festival; her world-premiere performance of William Bolcolm's Ballade at the newly re-opened Merkin Hall; Frederic Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated at Berkeley's EdgeFest (one of the "top ten classical music events of 2007", Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle); and recitals at Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Columbia University's Miller Theater, Zankel Hall, the International Keyboard Institute and Festival at the Mannes College of Music and elsewhere.
Her enduring commitment to integrating new music into regular concert life has led her to commission and premiere many compositions, including works by 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.
A co-founder of Speculum Musicae, Ms. Oppens has an extensive recording catalogue and has 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. Her recent Cedille release, Oppens plays Carter, was named on "Best of 2008" lists in The New York Times, The New Yorker magazine, and the Chicago Tribune.
Ursula Oppens studied piano with her mother, the late Edith Oppens, as well as with Leonard Shure and Guido Agosti. She received her master's degree at The Juilliard School, where she studied with Felix Galimir and Rosina Lhévinne. After 14 years as the John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music at Northwestern University, Ms. Oppens joined the faculty of Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music and CUNY Graduate Center as Distinguished Professor in fall 2008.