Sontraud Speidel was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, and started piano lessons at the age of five. At the age of eleven, she entered the Hochschule fuer Musik Karlsruhe where she studied with Irene Slavin (a Russian pedagogue) and Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen.
Then followed studies with Branka Musulin in Frankfurt, Germany, Stefan Askenase in Brussels, Belgium and Géza Anda in Luzerne, Switzerland. After winning various awards in Germany (amongst others at the age of 16, the first prize in a competition including all schools in Germany), she won the first prize of the Johann Sebastian Bach International Piano Competition in Washington D.C. She is also the recipient of the Boston Symphony's Jackson Prize for Modern Music and Italy's Ettore Pozzoli Prize.
Sontraud Speidel has given recitals, concerts with orchestra, chamber music concerts, performed in festivals (e. g. Schwetzinger Festspiele; Bayreuther Festspiele; Carinthischer Sommer, Austria; Raritaeten der Klaviermusik in Husum; Brucknertage Linz, Austria; Brahmsfestival Luebeck; Rostropowitsch-Festival Kronberg; Kammermusikfest Luebeck; Klangbogen Wien, Austria; Kfar Blum Chamber Music Festival, Israel; MusikFEST Minnesota/USA; Euro-Event, Korea; Kultursommer am Maerkischen Meer); played on radio and television, and made recordings in most European countries, and in the former Soviet Union, Canada, the United States, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Brasil.
She has conducted master classes in Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama, Hawaii, Washington, Minnesota and California as well as master classes in Germany, Vienna (Austria), Israel and Greece. In 1979, she was invited by former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to perform at the Palais Schaumburg in Bonn.
She was "Distinguished Visiting Professor" at California State University, USA, and at the Université de Montréal, Canada. She was also guest professor at Tel Aviv University; at the Bologna Conservatory; the Conservatoire Royal Bruxelles, Belgium; Norges musikkhřgskole Oslo, Norway; the Royal Academy of Music, London; the Yehudi Menuhin School (England); the Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea; the Seoul National University; the Korean National University of Arts in Seoul, Korea; the Seoul National University/Korea; the Shih Chien University Taipeh/Taiwan, and with TO-ON in Tokyo, Japan.
She gives master classes every year in Vienna, Austria; Tel Hai, Israel; and Athens, Greece.
Composers such as the most significant Greek master Yannis Papaioannou, Violeta Dinescu and Kurt Hessenberg have dedicated piano works to Sontraud Speidel.
She also plays piano music which has been neglected (Fanny Hensel, Clara Schumann, other women composers; Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Theodor Kirchner, Carl Reinecke) and is active in several chamber music ensembles (e. g. duo violin-piano, piano duo, where she performs and records much symphonic music in transcriptions: e. g. Bach-Reger, Schubert-Schoenberg, Mahler-Casella, piano trio with violin and cello, chamber music with the Wind Quartett of the Baden-Baden Radio). In March 2000, she received the award "Silver Medal for Services for the City of Vienna" from the Government of Vienna, Austria, "honoring her outstanding performances". In 2001, she became the music director of the newly-installed festival "Clavissimo" in Seoul, Korea. Since 2002, she is music director of the International Piano festival Taiwan in Taipeh. In 2003, the International Vienna Music Seminary honored her with its highest decoration, the Josef Dichler Gold Medal.
She has recorded 22 commercial CD's. She was the first pianist to record works for piano solo by Fanny Hensel, the sister of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: in November, 1999, she recorded newly discovered piano works of Fanny Hensel. Her recording of all the works of Reger for two pianos, together with Evelinde Trenkner, was awarded with the first prize in the category "Solo Instruments" of "Audiophile Reference".
Sontraud Speidel is currently Professor of Piano at the Music University of Karlsruhe, Germany, where she is head of the Keyboard Department and head of the Department for Advanced Studies.
Sontraud Speidel also chairs PIANO-PODIUM, an association which has more than 650 members of pianists, piano teachers, students and piano fans; she also promotes young talented pianists, and is dedicated to research work in piano pedagogy.
Sontraud Speidel is cofounder and artistic director of the concert series Musikforum Hohenwettersbach (Germany) and Concerter pa Syd-Falster (Denmark). She is a regular jury member of national piano competitions ("Jugend musiziert" on the regional, state and federal level, Matthaes; Small Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau, Germany; Johann Sebastian Bach competition in Koethen, Germany; etc.) and international piano competitions (Bach Competition Leipzig, Callas Competition Athens (Greece), Senigallia, Vienna, Dublin, Reggio de Calabria, Marsala, Roma, Bach Competition Washington D.C., Israel etc.
Many of her students have won numerous prizes in national and international competitions.
In 2005, Sontraud Speidel was awarded with the "Bundesverdienstkreuz der Bundesrepublik Deutschland" [National Award of Germany].
Sontraud Speidel is "Steinway pianist" and an honorary member of the "Werner-Trenkner Society"
English translation by John H. Nisbet