"...the Madonna of contemporary music"



Photo by Hilary Scott


Ursula Oppens has long been recognized as the leading champion of contemporary American piano music.  In addition, her original and perceptive readings of other music, old and new, have earned her a place among the elect of today’s performing musicians.

Highlights of Ms. Oppens’ 2015/16 season include recitals at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, Northwestern University, The University of Maryland, New York’s Bargemusic, Cutting edge New Music Festival, and at the Ascoli Piceno Festival in Italy.  In addition, Ms. Oppens returns to Music Mountain for a performance with the Cassatt Quartet in September 2015 and is the featured artist along with the International Contemporary Ensemble in a residency celebrating composer Christian Wolff at Dartmouth College in October. Ms. Oppens busy spring and summer 2015 season included appearances with the Boston Pops in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat major, K. 365 (with Philip Moll), at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Alberta Piano Fest, and Cincinnati’s Art of the Piano Festival. Ms. Oppens’ recent solo recital at Bargemusic in New York was praised by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in the New York Times:

Ursula Oppens is an eloquent pianist who has long been a persuasive advocate of new music, which she presents not as a discipline separate from the interpretation of the classics but as an extension of that work. The connection felt especially organic in the solo recital she presented at Bargemusic on Friday evening. – June 29, 2015

The fall of 2015 also brings the Cedille Records release of Ms. Oppens’ new recording of Frederik Rzewski’s cult classic “The People United Will Never Be Defeated,” coupled with Mr. Rzewski new composition “Four Hands”. Written for Ms. Oppens and premiered by her in 1976, her first recording won her the first of four Grammy nominations in 1979.  Most recently, Ms. Oppens was nominated in 2011 in the coveted category of “Best Classical Instrumental Solo” for the highly praised album “Winging It: Piano Music of John Corigliano,” also released on Cedille Records. The disc featured the world premiere recording of John Corigliano’s work by the same name, which had its debut performance by Ms. Oppens at New York’s Symphony Space in May 2009.  Journalist Tom Huizenga from the Washington Post praised Ms. Oppens’s interpretation: “Her rigorous, unforced performances again prove that few pianists of any era can claim a hold on contemporary piano music as she does” (August 2011).

Earlier Grammy nominations were for Oppens Plays Carter; a recording of the complete piano works of Elliott Carter for Cedille Records (which also was named a “Best of the Year” selection by The New York Times long-time music critic Allan Kozinn); and her Piano Music of Our Time featuring compositions by John Adams, Elliott Carter, Julius Hemphill, and Conlon Nancarrow for the Music and Arts label. Ms. Oppens recently added to her extensive discography by releasing a two-piano CD for Cedille Records devoted to Visions de l’Amen of Oliver Messiaen and Debussy’s En blanc et noir performed with pianist Jerome Lowenthal. Recent releases also include a collaboration with pianist Robert Levin in a recording of the noted British composer Bernard Rands’s selected piano works on Bridge records and a collaboration with Meredith Monk, “Piano Songs”, on ECM Records..

Over the years, Ms. Oppens has premiered works by such leading composers as John Adams, Luciano Berio, William Bolcom, Anthony Braxton, Elliott Carter, John Corigliano, Anthony Davis, John Harbison, Julius Hemphill, Laura Kaminsky, Tania Leon, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Harold Meltzer, Meredith Monk, Conlon Nancarrow, Tobias Picker, Bernard Rands, Frederic Rzewski, Allen Shawn, Alvin Singleton, Joan Tower, Lois V Vierk, Amy Williams, Christian Wolff, Amnon Wolman, and Charles Wuorinen.

As an orchestral guest soloist, Ms. Oppens has performed with virtually all of the world’s major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), and the orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Milwaukee. Abroad, she has appeared with such ensembles as the Berlin Symphony, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Deutsche Symphonie, the Scottish BBC, and the London Philharmonic Orchestras.  Ms. Oppens is also an avid chamber musician and has performed with the Arditti, Cassatt, JACK, Juilliard, and Pacifica quartets, among other chamber ensembles.

Ursula Oppens is a Distinguished Professor of Music at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.  From 1994 through the end of the 2007-08 academic year she served as John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.  In addition, Ms. Oppens has served as a juror for many international competitions, such as the Concert Artists Guild, Young Concert Artists, Young Pianists Foundation (Amsterdam), and Cincinnati Piano World Competition. Ms. Oppens lives in New York City.