Classical Cello

Ursula Smith


Ursula Smith studied with Emma Ferrand and Ralph Kirshbaum at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and Aldo Parisot at Yale University, where she was a Fulbright scholar and graduated with a Master of Music degree. Later on she participated in masterclasses with Janos Starker, William Pleeth and Pierre Fournier.

From 2006 to 2012 Smith was a member of the Zehetmair String Quartet. She performed with the quartet in many of the world’s top venues including the Berlin and Köln Philharmonie, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall. She has played at Cheltenham, Aldeburgh and Schleswig Holstein Festivals and from 2010 for three consecutive years at the Salzburg International Festival. The Zehetmair quartet plays mostly from memory and is committed to the performance of lesser-known works, especially from the twentieth century. Highlights of their work included a Schumann cycle at the Wigmore Hall in 2007 and taking part in Elliot Carter’s 100th birthday celebrations in New York in 2008. The quartet’s 2007 recording of Bartok’s 5th quartet and Hindemith quartet opus 22 won the Diapason D’Or of the year in France for the category of chamber music and was shortlisted for a Grammophone award in the UK. In 2008 the quartet - at the Köln Philharmonie - performed the world premiere of a new string quartet written for them by Heinz Holliger. In December 2013 ECM released the quartet’s latest double CD to critical acclaim. Smith plays on the recordings of Beethoven opus 135, Bruckner quartet and Holliger’s second string quartet.

As a chamber musician she was a finalist in the 1993 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan. She has recorded the complete Beethoven Folk songs for piano trio and voice for Deutsche Grammophon, and given recitals and recorded for BBC Radio 3 with the pianists Malcolm Martineau and Aleksandar Madzar. Her chamber music concerts include work with Pierre Laurent Aimard, Steven Isserlis, Eric le Sage, Marieke Blankestijn and Gordan Nikolic.

As a soloist she has worked with conductors such as Mark Wigglesworth, Jorma Panula, Nicholas Kraemer and Andrew Litton and appeared with orchestras such as the Philharmonia and the Goldberg Ensemble. In 1995 she gave the British première of Nigel Osborne’s cello concerto with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and also toured South America playing John Tavener’s Eternal Memory. In 2013 she commissioned, with the help of PRS and RVW Trusts, two new works for solo cello, from the composers Sally Beamish and Jacob Anderskov. They were performed in connection with the centenary of Benjamin Britten, at festivals in the UK and Denmark.

As well as teaching Cello in the Classical Music department of Conservatorium Maastricht, Ursula is a Professor of Cello at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. She has also given many guest classes at conservatoires in Europe and Japan. From 1993 to 2002 she was Principal Cello of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. In 2014 she was a member of the jury and gave masterclasses for the International Mozart Competition, Salzburg, and gave masterclasses and recitals as part of Music Fest Perugia in Italy. In 2015 she gave masterclasses in China, the Netherlands, the UK, Iceland and Denmark. Festival appearances include: Lake District Summer Music Festival, Esbjerg International Chamber Music Festival and the International Cello Festival of the Royal Academy of Music in Århus Denmark. In 2016 she will release her recording of the three Britten suites for Meridian records.

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