Mihaela Ursuleasa: Internationally-acclaimed pianist

 

Mihaela Ursuleasa was an internationally renowned concert pianist, who wowed audiences around the globe with her prodigious technique and often idiosyncratic interpretations.

The award-winning Romanian-born prodigy and winner of the prestigious Clara Haskil prize was found dead in her Vienna apartment after suffering what is believed to be a brain haemorrhage. She was 33. Ursuleasa had recently cancelled two concerts in the Romanian capital Bucharest on unspecified health grounds.

Although she split critics, they all agreed that Ursuleasa had a "je ne sais quoi" and her sparkling enthusiasm was as evident in her playing as it was in her writing and in her personality. Known for her large tone, fleet fingers and gentle caressing of the keyboard, as well as stunning programming, Ursuleasa was perhaps most closely associated with Romantic composers such as Prokofiev, Chopin and Schumann.

Confessing that, "The happiest recitals are those where you have lots of friends listening," Ursuleasa found solo recitals to be her forte. "Where else do you get to make the rubato you want?" she once asked.

In her short career, Ursuleasa performed with some of the world's foremost orchestras including the London Philharmonic, the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Berlin and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra among others, appearing at major international events such as the Salzburg Festival, the Beethoven festivals in Warsaw and Bonn and the mostly Mozart Festival in New York. In 2000, she stepped in for Richard Goode – "another inspirational figure in my life" – to perform with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Sir Neville Marriner and toured with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and the conductor Neeme Järvi.

She worked with other famous conductors, including Kurt Sanderling, Bruno Weil, Paavo Jarvi and Osmo Vänskä, and appeared at renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, London's Wigmore Hall, Zurich's Tonhalle and Vienna's Konzerthaus.

In 2009, Ursuleasa made debut appearances with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris under Andris Nelsons and also with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg conducted by John Storgards, where her playing was compared to that of the great Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich.

Mihaela Ursuleasa was born in Brasov, central Romania, in 1978, during the Communist rule of Nicolae Ceaucescu. Her mother was a singer, her father a gypsy jazz pianist; they soon recognised her early talent and began supervising her piano-playing, teaching her "how to move most of my fingers on the keys and, most important, to have fun".

With the death of her father, Ursuleasa recalled, "I didn't have time for recreation," as her first teacher, the pianist Stela Dragulin, worked her up to 12 hours a day and urged her to tour; she was giving concerts by the time she was nine. This led to second prize at the International Piano Competition in Senigallia, Italy.

Following the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989, the acclaimed pianist Radu Lupu returned to his country and after one concert the 11-year-old Ursuleasa visited his green room, where they played Mozart together. A year later, she played for the Italian conductor Claudio Abbado, who recommended her to Professor Heinz Medjimorec at the Vienna Conservatory. Withdrawn immediately from public performances, under his tutelage, Ursuleasa perfected her technique and deepened her musical interpretation.

Likened to Clara Haskil, another Romanian, she reaped the fruits of this decision in 1995, when what one critic referred to as her "rare combination of vivacity and technical mastery: won her the revered Competition of the same name in Vevey, Switzerland at the age of 16. Although delighted with her win, she soon declared her aversion to competitions, stating, "It is the most unlogical way of dealing with music." In 1999, she graduated with a diploma cum laude.

Reviewing her first album in 1996, of Beethoven and Mozart concertos with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra under Jesús López-Cobos, part of Ursuleasa's prize for winning the Haskil Competition, the critic Harold C Schonberg wrote, "Well, well. A competition winner who can convey strength without relentless pounding; who has temperament; who has a completely finished technique; who has a wide tonal palette." He particularly enjoyed "her sparkling finger work and a general feeling of joie de vivre," adding, "Here we have a real pianist, and we shall be hearing from her."

In 2010, her debut solo album, Piano & Forte, won the ECHO Klassik award for Solo Recording of the Year. Her second solo album, of Enescu and Bartók, Romanian Rhapsody, was released last year. Ursuleasa had planned to explore the gypsy music of her homeland.

The Romanian soprano Felicia Filip reminisced about Ursuleasa's début. "In my mind's eye I see the child lost in the immensity of the piano. I recall a child who couldn't reach the piano pedals."

Ursuleasa is survived by her mother and five-year-old daughter.

Mihaela Ursuleasa, concert pianist: born Brasov, Romania 27 September 1978; one daughter; died Vienna 2 August 2012.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering