Leo Ornstein: Piano Quintet, String Quartet #3
Liner Notes   Cat. No. 80509     Release Date: 1997-01-01

Lydian String Quartet; Janice Weber

Leo Ornstein (1893-2002), son of a Russian cantor, grew up hearing not only Jewish liturgical music, but Greek and Armenian chant, and Russian folk music as well. These influences are featured and blended in his music, together with a highly personal language of dissonant tonality. The Piano Quintet (1927) is always tonal, though not in a traditionally "functional" way. Long build-ups of gradually piled-up dissonance arrive at forceful climaxes that have panoramic scope and power. Sweeping melodies float beatlessly over strongly marked metric supports. In the outer movements, the mood is often epic; one is reminded of the movies of Eisenstein and the great Russian landscapes, marauding bands of Cossacks, affecting cantorial wails-the irresistible momentum of history. The slow movement is an eloquent expression of human sadness.

In the String Quartet No. 3 (1976), the tonality is much more oblique. There is constant tonal reference, but Ornstein seldom alights squarely in a clearly defined key. The listener is often oriented towards a tonal center, but there are unexpected deflections and pivotings that open new horizons.

The Lydian String Quartet

Leo Ornstein: Piano Quintet, String Quartet #3

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Track Listing

Piano Quintet: I. Allegro barbaro
Leo Ornstein
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Piano Quintet: II. Andante lamentoso
Leo Ornstein
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Piano Quintet: III. Allegro agitato
Leo Ornstein
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String Quartet No. 3: I. Moderato con moto
Leo Ornstein
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String Quartet No. 3: II. Moderato quasi improvisato
Leo Ornstein
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String Quartet No. 3: III. Allegro con moto
Leo Ornstein
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