Classical Music Discoveries

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episode 32: 20032 Leo Ornstein: Piano Music, Volume Three

Leo Ornstein is as well known for his extraordinary longevity as for his music: he was born in Ukraine in 1893 and died in Wisconsin in 2002, aged at least 108. His generous output of music, much of it for the piano, his own instrument, remains poorly known, although it can stand shoulder to shoulder with that of many better-known names. Some of the pieces here – which cover a span of over 60 years – have their roots in Debussy, Skryabin, and Szymanowski, but Ornstein welds those influences into an edgy, energetic language very much his own. The Three Moods of c. 1914 are anger, grief, and joy, but there is strength of feeling in all the music to be heard here. Indeed, the Nine Vignettes bear a misleading title: they are substantial and powerful virtuoso essays that can flare up into moments of startling power and violence; hitherto unknown, they constitute a major contribution to the piano literature.


Nine Vignettes, s380 (1977) (34:39)

  1. No. 1 Moderato (4:49)
  2. No. 2 Con Moto (3:08)
  3. No. 3 Moderato (3:21)
  4. No. 4 Animato (4:26)
  5. No. 5 Moderato (2:09)
  6. No. 6 Allegro (3:30)
  7. No. 7 Animato (4:15)
  8. No. 8 Moderato (3:15)
  9. No. 9 Moderato con moto (5:46)
  10. Bagatelle, s100 (1952) (1:30)
  11. A Moment of Retrospect, s156 (?1950s) (4:45)
  12. The Cathedral, s73 (1916) (2:50)
  13. Nocturne, No. 1, s153 (c. 1922) (8:47)

Three Moods, s5 (c. 1914)* (11:13)

  1. No. 1 Anger: Agitato (2:38)
  2. No. 2 Grief (5:32)
  3. No. 3 Joy: Presto (3:03)

All Except * First Recordings

*First Digital Recording

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 November 4, 2023  1h8m