Ursula Oppens is an American concert pianist who has dedicated most of her career to performing and helping advance the cause of contemporary keyboard literature. Oppens initially studied piano with her mother and later took lessons with Guido Agosti, Leonard Shure, and Rosina Lhevinne. After earning her master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music, Oppens made her New York debut in 1969 and went on to take first prize at the Busoni International Piano Competition that same year. In 1971 Oppens co-founded the contemporary music ensemble Speculum Musicae, which still exists 30 years on, although she is no longer a member. Oppens has also performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
In recent years Oppens has been serving as the John Evans Professor of Music Performance Studies at Northwestern University. Nonetheless, Oppens maintains a busy performance schedule that ranges worldwide and has racked up an equally long track record in the recording studio, recording for Nonesuch, Albany, Innova, Music and Arts, New World, Bridge, CRI, and many others. One area of endeavor in which Oppens has truly made her mark is in commissioning original works from contemporary composers. Among the composers who have written music especially for Oppens are Charles Wuorinen, Elliott Carter, Conlon Nancarrow, John Harbison, György Ligeti, and Witold Lutoslawski. Her recordings American Piano Music of Our Time and of Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Shall Never Be Defeated have both been nominated for Grammy Awards. She also played and recorded in a piano duet with the late pianist Paul Jacobs that is fondly remembered by many fans of contemporary music.