The music of



 "the single composer in America who displays positive signs of genius"
(Ernst Bloch)


Two Pieces, Op. 33
Sonata Op. 52, No. 2
Six Preludes
Composition No. 1
Sonata Op. 52, No. 1

Leo Ornstein (1893-2002)
Leo Ornstein was the most significant American pianist of new music at the beginning of the 20th century. Among the first pianists to advocate and widely perform the music of Schoenberg, Scriabin, Bartók, Debussy, Kodály, Ravel, and Stravinsky (he gave the American premier of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit), he would play to sold out houses, and his performances electrified audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

His own compositions were wildly futuristic. The Musical Standard called him "one of the most remarkable composers of the day...[with] that germ of realism and humanity which is indicative of genius." The first composer to make use of the tonal cluster (beating both Ives and Cowell), his music is often densely complex, percussive, and highly aggressive. In 1917, critic James Huneker wrote, "I never thought I should live to hear Arnold Schoenberg sound tame, yet tame he sounds—almost timid and halting—after Ornstein who is, most emphatically, the only true-blue, genuine, Futurist composer alive."

Yet in the mid 1920's, Ornstein completely withdrew from the concert stage and his works from that time onward became increasingly more conservative. He felt that he had taken music "to the brink," and consciously chose to pull back. His music from this time to the end of his life was characterized by a haunting lyricism and a unique juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity; tonality, and atonality.

Today, Ornstein is all but forgotten. Yet his work remains some of the greatest, most influential pieces from the early years of the 20th century. His output for 'cello and piano represents Ornstein well: from the bitingly dissonant Two Pieces, to the beautiful Sonata No. 1, to the highly energetic Six Preludes, this is remarkably unique music that needs to once again be in the general musical consciousness.

To learn more about Ornstein, visit his website, courtesy of his son, Severo.



Severo and Laura Ornstein
Nick Alvarez, Keith Kirchoff, Severo (son of Leo) and Laura Ornstein

Upcoming Performances

September, 2009 - TBA
Arizona State University.
Tempe, AZ

September 28 - October 10, 2009
In residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
Banff, Alberta. CANADA

Recent Performances

March 4, 2009 - 4:30 pm
Rolston Hall. Banff Centre
Banff, Alberta. CANADA

March 6, 2009 - 7:30 pm
Bentley Hall. Banff Centre
Banff, Alberta. CANADA

March 19, 2009 - 4:30 pm
Bentley Hall. Banff Centre
Banff, Alberta. CANADA

March 21, 2009 - 7:30 pm
Jasper, Alberta. CANADA

March 27, 2009 - 7:30 pm
Rolston Hall. Banff Centre
Banff, Alberta. CANADA
Featuring the works of Louis Andriessen

July 15, 2009 - 7:30 pm
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Los Olivos, CA

July 17, 2009 - 7:30 pm
First Congregational Church
Los Angeles, CA

July 19, 2009 - 4:00 pm
Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

Sept. 12, 2009 - 7:30 pm
Temple Adat Shalom
Poway, CA