Ursula Smith studied with 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. Other teachers included Emma Ferrand and Kitty Peacock. She also participated in masterclasses with Janos Starker, William Pleeth and Pierre Fournier.
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.
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 Peter Donohoe, Steven Isserlis, Stephen Hough, Gordan Nikolic and Alexander Janiczek. She has played at the Wigmore Hall, Merkin Hall and Alice Tully in New York. She has appeared in the International Cello Festival in Manchester in 2001, Bergen Contemporary Music Festival and La Jolla Chamber Music Festival in California, and has attended the International Musicians Seminar Open Chamber Music in Prussia Cove in Cornwall many times.
From 2006 to 2012 Ursula was a member of the Zehetmair String Quartet with Thomas Zehetmair. She performed with the quartet in the Berlin and Köln Philharmonie, at Cheltenham and Aldeburgh Festivals, and at the Zurich Tonhalle. In 2007 the quartet performed a Schumann cycle at the Wigmore Hall, and performed in Japan and America, including Carnegie Hall. The quartet released a recording of Bartók's 5th Quartet and Hindemith's Quartet Op.22 in Spring 2007 for ECM. This recording was chosen by Fona Forum in Germany as record of the month (April 2007), was given the Diapason d'Or for 2007 in the category of chamber music in France and was shortlisted for a Gramophone award in the UK. In 2008 the quartet performed the world première of a new string quartet written for them by Heinz Holliger, at the Köln Philharmonie. In 2009 the quartet took part in Elliott Carter's birthday celebrations in New York. Highlights also included appearances at the 2010 and 2011 Salzburg Festivals.
Ursula Smith was principal cello of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 1993 until 2002 and now lives in Copenhagen. She has taught on the staff of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and has also given guest classes at the Royal Northern College of Music, the Universität der Künste, Berlin, and Hochschule für Musik in Hannover. In 2011 she gave masterclasses in chamber music and cello at the Yehudi Menuhin School and the RCS in Glasgow. Masterclasses given with the quartet include Bern Hochschule für Musik in 2006 and, in 2007, classes for Japanese students at the Suntory Hall in Tokyo.
Ursula set up a 'Britten project' for the centenary of the composer's birth in 2013 and commissioned contemporary composers Sally Beamish and Jacob Anderskov to write new works for solo cello to be performed alongside the three Britten cello suites: her LDSM début recital that year included the second performance of Beamish's Suite.
*See the panel on the right for details of her duo recital in the 2015 LDSM festival.