Although best known for a collection of radical early works, throughout his life Leo Ornstein (1893-2002) wrote in diverse styles. Such stylistic eclecticism confounded his listeners, which, in turn, may explain why he chose to retire from the concert stage in order to follow his muse away from public pressure and scrutiny. Ornstein's music blends lyricism, exotic atmospheres, innovative tone clusters, and dramatic rhythmic drive, greatly influenced by Debussy, Scriabin, and Eastern European Jewish chant. While many recordings exist of the works for cello and piano by better-known composers such as Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich, those of many other historical figures like Ornstein are only now being given the recognition they deserve.
Given the character, drama, and strength of Ornstein's music, a recording of his collected cello works has long been overdue. Ornstein himself considered these works to be among his most significant. In a conversation with Vivian Perlis he remarked, "Some day, if you get a chance, you really ought to study those Six Preludes for Cello and Piano. I believe, frankly, that it's probably one of the best pieces of music that I've written, one of the soundest. I think if any music is going to last, I have a feeling that may be it." Of the many works he composed for cello and piano, surprisingly, only the first Cello Sonata from 1919 and the Six Preludes from 1930 have ever been recorded. This is the first time that all of these works, four of which are world-premiere recordings, appear together on CD.
Six Preludes for cello and piano (1929-30), Composition 1 for cello and piano* (date unknown), Sonata No. 1 for cello and piano, Op. 52 (1915), Two Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 33 nos. 1 and 2* (date unknown), Sonata No. 2 for cello and piano* (ca. 1920)
* world-premiere recording
Reviews"These exemplary performances should ensure that Ornstein's cello works will enjoy some of the limelight the composer shunned for so long." - The New York Times