« | Main | »

Leo Ornstein: Complete Works for Cello and Piano
By David Lewis

Composer and pianist Leo Ornstein is known best for two things; (a) being the first "futurist" pianist in the early modern period and (b) being about the longest lived composer in history of music, dying at 108 in 2002. Neither of these attributes have much to say about Ornstein's music, which has been recorded heretofore in a spotty fashion with the emphasis being on the "futurist" piano music that made his name, a style that he abandoned around 1920. Anyone familiar with his extraordinary Piano Quintet of 1927, however, will already know that Ornstein was an expert and deeply serious composer of chamber music, and will be predisposed to welcome the advent of New World's Leo Ornstein: Complete Works for Cello and Piano. Performed by cellist Joshua Gordon of the Lydian String Quartet and pianist Randall Hodgkinson, this is the first "complete" recorded survey of any aspect of Ornstein's output, and the five compositions represented span a period of roughly 1914 to about 1931...It sounds like major music, and these are major performers—Gordon has studied this music closely and he and Hodgkinson have worked out the knotty problems relating to Ornstein's impatience in writing his music down. In some cases they have had to rely on their own reading of the pieces to get the fine details down in terms of dynamics, tempo and expression, as Ornstein's scores are silent on this point. All of New World's Leo Ornstein: Complete Works for Cello and Piano is absorbing and revelatory, and the recording, from Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, is just right. More