Pianist Ursula Set to Feature at National Association of Music Teachers Virtual Conference
Internationally acclaimed American pianist Ursula Oppens is participating in the Music Teachers’ National Association Virtual Conference 2022 on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, for an online advanced piano masterclass at 9:15 a.m. and an online solo piano recital at 8:00 p.m.
A highlight of the streaming recital program features Ms. Oppens performing Friendship, by the late composer Frederic Rzewski, dedicated to and premiered by her in March 2021 at Brooklyn’s Bargemusic. Other works will be by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, Schubert, Hemphill and Ravel. The full program follows:
Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel Das Jahr
Friendship Frederic Rzewski
Franz Schubert Sonata in D major, D 850
Scherzo – Allegro Perennial
Rondo – Moderate Allegro
Scroll of Julius Hemphill
Maurice Ravel Noble and Sentimental Waltzes
The masterclass and recital stream will be available on the National Association of Music Teachers’ platform for registered audiences only; registration from $65 for non-members and from $45 for members. Registration is available here. For more information, please visit the National Association of Music Teachers website.
Ursula Oppens, a legend among American pianists, is widely admired not only for her original and insightful readings of new music, but also for her scholarly interpretations of standard repertoire. No other artist alive today has commissioned and premiered more new piano works that have entered the permanent repertoire.
A prolific and critically acclaimed artist with five Grammy nominations to her credit, Ms. Oppens is renowned for her cult classic The People United Will Never Be Defeated by the late iconoclastic composer Frederic Rzewski. This 1979 release, for the Vanguard label, marked his first Grammy nomination. In 2016, she released a new recording of The People United Will Never Be Defeated, also nominated for a Grammy, and previous Grammy nominations were for Winging It: Piano Music of John Corigliano; opens Carter games; a recording of the complete piano works of Elliott Carter for Cedille Records (also named “Best of the Year” selection by longtime New York Times music critic Allan Kozinn); and Piano Music of Our Time with 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 Fantasy: Oppens Plays Kaminsky in 2021 for the Cedille label. She has also recorded Piano Songs, a collaboration with Meredith Monk, as well as a two-piano CD for Cedille Records devoted to Oliver Messiaen’s Visions of the Amen and Debussy’s En blanc et noir performed with pianist Jérôme Lowenthal.
During the pandemic, Ms. Oppens has performed concerts live and online. In May 2021, she was chosen to reopen the New York City Bargemusic series in person. Performing works by Chopin, Carter and a newly composed piece called Friendship, by Frederic Rzewski, prompted ConcertoNet’s Harry Rolnick to review in glowing terms:
[in] her extraordinary one-hour concert last night… her fingers danced over the difficulties of Carter’s Catenaries with the same natural elegance as she played five Chopin Nocturnes. And she gives her music the punch, the bravado, the liveliness it deserves… Her virtuosity goes hand in hand – literally – with her understanding. And yes, his attitude, his beatific smile after each work, his nuances that we in the audience are the important visitors, make a concert a thing of joy. But the most important thing for this listener is that she can take the most so-called obscure algorithmic composition and make it absolutely logical. Not logical philosophically or structurally, but with a logic of understanding. As probably the most accomplished Frederic Rzewski in the world, I’m sure his performance of Rzewski’s Friendship was authoritative…Ms. Oppens creates the world of great artists without judgement, only the obligation to offer them an often ineffable art.
-May 22, 2021
In early 2019, Ms. Oppens gave a recital at Merkin Concert Hall to celebrate her 75th birthday, inaugurating the Kaufman Music Center’s new series, Only at Merkin with Terrance McKnight. Her program featured all the works written for her by Elliott Carter and John Corigliano, and gave the world premiere of a piano quintet by Laura Kaminsky – commissioned by the pianist for the occasion with production support from the Newburgh Institute for The Arts & Ideas – alongside Tobias Picker’s Cassatt String Quartet and Ursula for solo piano, a birthday present for his dear friend and collaborator.
About Ms. Oppens’ concert at Merkin Hall, David Wright of the New York Classical Review wrote on February 3, 2019:
The Merkin Concert Hall was packed Saturday night…to celebrate the pianist’s 75th birthday on its exact date. Here, one was particularly aware of the quality of Oppens’ full, projecting tone even in the softest pianissimo, and able to produce enormous impact in forte chords without sounding pinched or bumpy. His pedaling was unusually subtle for the interpretation of new music, handling resonances and overlapping sounds like an expert Chopin player.
Over the years Ms. Oppens has premiered works by great composers such as John Adams, Luciano Berio, William Bolcom, Anthony Braxton, Elliott Carter, John Corigliano, Anthony Davis, John Harbison, Julius Hemphill, David Hertzberg, Laura Kaminsky, Tania Leon, György Ligeti, Erik Lundborg, 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 every major orchestra in the world, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), and the orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Milwaukee. Abroad, she has performed with ensembles such as the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Orchester 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 professor emeritus of music at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York; she also joined the faculty of Mannes College, The New School, in the fall of 2017. In 2019, Ms. Oppens received an honorary doctorate from the New England Conservatory. From 1994 until the end of the 2007-08 academic year, she was the John Evans Professor of Music Emeritus at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. In addition, Ms. Oppens has been a member of the jury of numerous international competitions, such as Bachauer, Busoni, Concert Artists Guild, Young Concert Artists, Young Pianists Foundation (Amsterdam) and Cincinnati Piano World Competition. Ms. Oppens lives in New York.