Ursual Oppens, pianist (credit: Hilary Scott)

Pianist Ursula Oppens celebrates 75th birthday with concert at Merkin

Mark Gresham | 02 FEB 2019

American pianist Ursula Oppens turns 75 today. The occasion, and her distinguished career, will be celebrated in a most fitting fashion this evening at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall with a concert that brings to the forefront her collaborations with some of the greatest composers of the 20th and 21st centuries and her legendary impact on contemporary classical music as a pianist.

It’s the kind of birthday party where the guests receive the gifts, being afforded a chance to hear Oppens play some of the music that has been written specifically for her. She will open the program with three such solo piano works: the world premiere of “Ursula,” written just last year by Tobias Picker, the late Elliott Carter’s “Two Diversions” and “Winging It” by John Corigliano.

Oppens will be joined on the program by one of her frequent performing collaborators ,the Cassatt String Quartet, which will by themselves play Ravel’s “String Quartet in F major.” Then to close the concert, Oppens and the Quartet together will give the world premiere of “Piano Quintet for Ursula” by Laura Kaminsky, a work commissioned by the pianist for the occasion.

Worth noting is the fact that, with the exception of Ravel, the composers represented in the program are all – like Oppens herself – native New Yorkers.

Oppens’ 75th Birthday Tribute concert also kicks off a new series entitled “Only At Merkin with Terrance McKnight,” created by Amy Roberts Frawley, Merkin’s director, with WQXR’s McKnight as co-curator and host.

The series will not only showcase acclaimed classical artists, but will also include insightful conversations allied to the virtuosic performances, with a goal of deepening the audience’s understanding and appreciation of the music and the creative processes of performing artists and composers.

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