The Kolessa family was a prominent Ukrainian intellectual family living in Lviv, Western Ukraine, which treated music very seriously. The family included a number of professional composers and performers. Her uncle Filaret Kolessa was a noted ethnomusicologist devoted to the research of Ukrainian folk music. Her cousin Mykola Kolessa was a prominent Ukrainian composer and conductor. Chrystia Kolessa, Lubka's sister, was an illustrious cellist.
Her first lessons came from her grandmother, a pianist who had studied with Karol Mikuli, a pupil of Chopin. Her father Oleksandr Kolessa (1867–1945) had been elected as a deputy in the Austrian Reichsrat, the parliament of Cisleithania. In 1904 the family moved to Vienna.
In Vienna she studied at the Musikakademie Wien with Louis Thern and Emil von Sauer where she obtained her diploma in 1920, aged 16. She played as a soloist with the best orchestras and conductors of Europe and soon gained fame as a brilliant pianist.
In 1928, she undertook a triumphal tour to her homeland, at this time now under the administration of Poland. Later in 1928 she recorded as the last classical pianist six pieces for Welte-Mignon (see media). From 1929 to 1930 she studied again with Eugen d'Albert, who had a strong influence on her performance style.
1938 she successfully toured South America. Until 1939 she performed in Europe, recording a number of records for His Master's Voice in Germany.
She continued to tour throughout the Americas and was one of the most notable pianists in those continents. In 1954 she ended her concert-activities to devote herself to teaching.
From 1942 she taught piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, from 1955 to 1966 at the École de musique Vincent-d'Indy in Montreal, for twelve years at the McGill University and 1959-1960 in New York City at the Ukrainian Music Institute as well as at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal. Among her notable pupils were conductor and pianist Mario Bernardi, composers Clermont Pépin and John Hawkins and pianists Howard Brown Karen Quinton, Richard Gresko, Louis-Philippe Pelletier, Eugene Plawutsky, Pierrette Froment Savoie, Luba Zuk and Ireneus Zuk.
The Doremi label in 1999 released a set of three compact discs (DHR-7743-5) reissuing Kolessa's commercial recordings and some radio broadcasts, private recordings, and unissued recordings from 1936-1949. Works included range from two sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti to Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto and Brahms's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel.
Recently Kolessa's old recordings have been issued. In Karl Bohm's "The Early Years Box" (Warner, 19CD), her rare commercial recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.3, conducted by Karl Bohm/SKD(rec.1939), is included.
- Harald Binder: Galizien in Wien: Parteien, Wahlen, Fraktionen und Abgeordnete im Übergang zur Massenpolitik. Vienna: Verl. der Österr. Akad. der Wiss., 2005. ISBN 3-7001-3326-X.
- Gerhard Dangel and Hans-W. Schmitz: Welte-Mignon Klavierrollen - Welte-Mignon piano rolls: complete library of the European recordings 1904 - 1932 for the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano. Stuttgart 2006. ISBN 3-00-017110-X. p. 216 a. 464
- George Kehler: The Piano in Concert. Metuchen, N. J. et al: The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-1469-2. p. 412.
- The Times Marriage Notices