Music of Leo Ornstein
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL339     Release Date: 2010-11-15
Daniel Stepner, violin; Michael Strauss, violin; Peter John Sacco, viola; Thomas Mansbacher, cello; William Westney, piano

The use of tone clusters, secundal harmonies, metrical irregularities and other unusual effects in the Three Moods was extraordinary at such an early time and from a man of Leo Ornstein's conventional background and education. Ornstein said in a recent interview: “I still wonder at the age of eighty what the dickens, suddenly, why should I have thought of that? Why that thing came into my head, I'll be blessed if I know! And as a matter of fact, I really doubted my sanity at first, because it was so completely removed from any experience I had with music.”

The Quintette, composed in 1927, is one of Ornstein's major works. It was sponsored by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and is dedicated to her. The work shows Ornstein in a less abstract, more romantic style than he had displayed in his earlier, experimental pieces. It is charged with vitality, spontaneity, and passion while retaining not only an inner logic, but extraordinarily complicated harmonic and rhythmic structures. There are long, sweeping melodies, tunes reminiscent of Russian and Cossack songs, and driving rhythmic patterns. All of these are transformed throughout the three movements of the work. There is no key center, but the piece might be described as multi-tonal rather than atonal; the harmonic structure is complex and the textures are thick. There is a quality of integrity here, as there is in each of Ornstein's works, which derives from his determination to express his own life and feelings with utmost honesty.


This title from the CRI LP back catalog has been carefully transferred from the original master tape, and is now available from New World Records as an on-demand CD (CD-R). It can also be downloaded in MP3/320, FLAC and/or WAV format(s).

We have preserved the original CRI LP catalog number for this title, preceded by the prefix NWCRL, to distinguish previously unavailable back catalog titles from those later reissued by CRI on compact disc.

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Various Artists

Music of Leo Ornstein

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Track Listing

Three Moods: I. Anger
Leo Ornstein
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Three Moods: II. Grief
Leo Ornstein
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Three Moods: III. Joy
Leo Ornstein
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Quintette for Piano and Strings, Op. 92: I. Allegro barbaro
Leo Ornstein
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Quintette for Piano and Strings, Op. 92: II. Andante lamentoso
Leo Ornstein
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Quintette for Piano and Strings, Op. 92: III. Allegro agitato
Leo Ornstein
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