American Composers Orchestra

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Ursula Oppens, photo credit: Christian Steiner

Ursula Oppens, piano

Pianist URSULA OPPENS has won equal renown as an interpreter of the established repertoire and a champion of contemporary music. Her performances of music both old and new are marked by a powerful grasp of the composer's musical intentions and an equally powerful command of the keyboard's resources. These qualities have placed her in the ranks of the world's foremost interpreters.

Miss Oppens began the 1999/2000 season with summer festival appearances in Santa Fe and in New York at the Music Festival of the Hamptons, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival and Maverick Concerts in Woodstock. Engagements during the season include recitals in New York, Buffalo, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, and Northwestern. Her recital programs this season contain Beethoven piano sonatas juxtaposed with works by contemporary American composers, including Conlon Nancarrow, John Adams, Elliott Carter and Charles Wuorinen. With orchestra, Miss Oppens plays Mozart Piano Concerto K. 595 in Salzburg, the world premiere of Allen Shawn's Piano Concerto with the Albany Symphony and Franck's Piano Quintet with the Mendelssohn String Quartet. At Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall in New York, Miss Oppens performs in a special evening in which she and selected students from various American universities play the world premieres of ten pieces commissioned by Carnegie Hall (from ten leading international composers) for a project entitled, the Carnegie Hall Millennium Piano Book. Following the world premieres, in the spring of 2000, Miss Oppens performs some of the works in recital and conducts a masterclass, at the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo and at the Minnesota Teachers National Association conference in Minneapolis.

Ursula Oppens has been presented in recital by leading concert series and has appeared as soloist with major orchestras throughout the U.S. and Europe. She has been soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, 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. In the U.S. she has presented recitals coast?to?coast in various venues and at university and college campuses, especially at New York's Town Hall, the 92nd Street Y and Metropolitan Museum of Art; Orchestra Hall in Chicago; and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to name a few. In 1994, Miss Oppens was presented for the first time on Carnegie Hall's Keyboard Virtuoso Series and returned to that prestigious venue in 1997. She often collaborates with various chamber groups, having performed with the Juilliard, Vermeer and Mendelssohn string quartets, among others.

Throughout her career, Miss Oppens has played at many of the world's major festivals, including those in Aspen, Tanglewood, Santa Fe, Ojai, Edinburgh, Bonn, Cabrillo, Stresa, Bath, Bergama, Brescia, Japan, and the Holland Festival. Abroad, she has played at many of the major music centers in Europe, including the South Bank Center and the BBC Broadcasting House in London, the Vienna Radio Orchestra, the Theatre des Champs?Elysees in Paris, and in Stockholm, Brussels, Geneva, and Bonn. She was praised in particular by the Bonner Rundschau for her "sovereign" performance of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto with the Orchester der Beethovenhalle.

An enduring commitment to integrating new music into regular concert life has led Miss Oppens to commission and premiere many new compositions. Among these are works by Anthony Braxton, Elliott Carter, Anthony Davis, John Harbison, Julius Hemphill, Tania Leon, Gyorgy Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Conlon Nancarrow, Tobias Picker, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Singleton, Joan Tower, Lois Vierk, Christian Wolff, Amnon Wolman, and Charles Wuorinen.

Miss Oppens' dedication to music of differing styles and periods is reflected in her releases on the Music and Arts label: an all?Beethoven disc featuring the Sonata No. 11 in B flat Major, Op. 22; the Fantasy, Op. 77; and the Sonata No. 27 in B flat Major, Op. 106,Hammerklavier, and a 2?CD set of contemporary American piano works, American Piano Music of Our Time including John Adam's Phrygian Gates and Elliott Carter's Night Fantasies, as well as works expressly written for Miss Oppens by Julius Hemphill and Conlon Nancarrow.

A co-founder of Speculum Musicae, a performing group which has pioneered new music since 1971, Miss Oppens has recorded new works 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. The latter was also named in John Rockwell's Best of the Year survey for The New York Times along with her recording for New World Records of Elliott Carter's Piano Concerto. Miss Oppens recent releases include a disc of chamber music by Elliott Carter with the Arditti Quartet on the Audivis label and Charles Wuorinen's Piano Quintet on Koch International Classics. Other recordings include Joan Tower's Piano Concerto on De Note Records; Rzewski's Night Crossing with Fishermen and a disc of Schoenberg's vocal music with soprano Phyllis Bryn?Julson, both for Music and Arts; and the Brahms Viola Sonatas with Barbara Westphal on Bridge Records. Miss Oppens can also be heard on recordings from Angel, Arista, BMG, CBS Masterworks, CP2, CRI, New Albion, New World, Nonesuch and Watt Works.

Ursula Oppens studied piano with her mother, Edith Oppens, as well as with Leonard Sbure and Guido Agosti, and received her master's degree at the Juilliard School, where she studied with Felix Galimir and Rosina Lhevinne. As an undergraduate at Radcliffe College, she studied English literature and economics. A native New Yorker, Miss 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 Chigiani in 1970. In 1976 she won an Avery Fisher Career Grant which led to a performance with the New York Philharmonic.

Miss Oppens currently holds the position of the John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.



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