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Leo Ornstein: Piano Quintet, String Quartet No. 3

Your Works, Janice Weber Audio CD

Price: £16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Leo Ornstein: Piano Quintet, String Quartet No. 3 + Ornstein: Piano Sonata 4, 7
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1. Piano Quintet: I. Allegro barbaro
2. Piano Quintet: II. Andante lamentoso
3. Piano Quintet: III. Allegro agitato
4. String Quartet No.3: I. Moderato con moto
5. String Quartet No.3: II. Moderato quasi improvisato
6. String Quartet No.3: III. Allegro con moto

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Smashing, Propulsive, Lush and Lavish Piano Quintet 30 Jan 2000
By Eric Bruskin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This piece blew me away from the first beat to the last. It will grab you in the first five seconds, and it doesn't let go over three movements totalling nearly 40 minutes. The musical language is a super-saturated blend of early Stravinsky (think "Rite of Spring" compressed into five instruments) and Rachmaninoff on amphetamines. Ornstein's original contributions (and it IS an original work) are his extraordinary melodic thrust and a canny control of just how many notes to add to a harmonic field and still keep it focused and directional. Many chords contain nearly all twelve pitches, but this is NOT atonal music. Ornstein's inspiration is also evident in the rhythmic energy, which is nonstop yet always under control and modulated in masterly fashion. Imagine the propulsion of a Beethoven fast movement sustained -- even through slow music -- for nearly forty minutes. This is late romantic music ON THE EDGE. Written in 1927, at the end of that fabulous "anything-goes" era when romanticism inspired modernism (think Bartok, the early Russian modernists before they were suppressed, the recently rediscovered Igor Markevitch, and the Stravinsky of the large earlier works), this work compresses tonal music to near-black-hole density. The accompanying string quartet, written nearly 50 years later, is warmer and more autumnal and somewhat more astringent, from a master musician who continued to produce passionate and large-scale creations well into his 90s.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joyous celebration for piano and strings 6 Oct 1999
By Douglas C. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
A very savvy clerk in a record store turned me on to Ornstein's Piano Quintet, urging me to buy the recording. I resisted for a few days, then took the plunge. The music roared out of my speakers with such verve and radiance that I was swept away. I know of no mid to late 20th century chamber work with such instant and enduring appeal. The String Quintet that completes the disc is certainly attractive, but not nearly as memorable as the astounding Piano Quintet. Leo Ornstein was still alive when this was recorded (around 1997), at which time he was living in Green Bay, Wisconsin, at the age of 104. Does anyone reading this know whether he is still with us? Regardless, get this recording. Its combination of Slavic longing and romantic rapture will stay with you long after listening.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, powerful, dramatic, beautiful piano quintet! 4 April 2005
By C. J. Sturz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I agree with all the other reviewers...while the string quartet is strangely beautiful and even haunting in parts, the piano quintet on this disc is huge, passionate, brimming over with such intensity and such wonderful displays of tension and release that i felt emotionally and physically exhausted after listening to it the first time...it is fully the equal or even better than any of the other great romantic piano quintets, including those of Edward Elgar, Louis Vierne, Cesar Franck, and Ernest Bloch (HIS first piano quintet is also amazing!)
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leo Ornstein 13 July 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Leo Ornstein passed away February 24, 2002 in Green Bay, Wis.
He was 108 or 109.
"Fame never had much meaning or appeal to me," Mr. Ornstein told Harold C. Schonberg of The Times in 1976. "It is not worth it. If my music has any value, it will be picked up and played. If it has no value, it deserves its neglect."
Lovely to hear such valuable music being played.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leo Ornstein's Quintette 5 Oct 2013
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Leo Ornstein's 1927 piano quintet ("quintette") is the most important work of this neglected American composer. Pianist Janice Weber and the Lydian String Quartet recorded the quintet in 1994, and the Anthology of American Music (New World Records) released this CD in 1997, together with Ornstein's much later composition, the string quartet no. 3. Founded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, New World Records has a mission to preserve "neglected treasures of the past" and to nurture the "creative future of American music." The Boston-based Lydian String Quartet on this CD consists of violinists Daniel Stepner and Judith Eisenberg, violist Mary Ruth Ray, and cellist Rhonda Rider. It performs works from the standard repertoire as well as modern pieces. First violinist Stepner wrote the liner notes for this CD. In addition, Stepner performed in the first recording of the quintet in 1975 with a different ensemble. I knew Stepner when we were both kids in Milwaukee, and his violin playing was already prodigious.

Leo Ornstein (1892 --- 2002) was a child prodigy on the piano who came to the United States with his family from Russia at an early age. He quickly became famous as a virtuoso pianist and as the composer of futuristic piano compositions such as the "Wild Men's Dance", with which the quintet often is compared. In the 1930s, Ornstein dropped from public sight. He operated a music school in Philadelphia for many years. Ornstein and his music were rediscovered in the 1970s and his reputation continues to grow.

This recording offers a brilliant reading of Ornstein's masterwork. Commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, the piano quintet is an immediately striking, visceral and emotive three- movement work of about 40 minutes. Although the work is highly dissonant, it is accessible in its impact and was well-received during its early performances in 1928. The work features driving, pulsating and shifting rhythms which contrast with longer lyrical sections. Ornstein's gift for melody was not apparent in the short early piano works such as "Wild Men's Dance". The piano predominates in the quintet and it makes extraordinary demands, featuring long passages of blocked chords, large skips over the register, and swirling passages of arpeggios and runs. Janice Weber is equal to the task. She subsequently recorded a CD of Ornstein's solo piano music for Naxos' "American Classics" series. Ornstein: Piano Sonatas No. 4 & No. 7

The character of the opening movement is captured by its marking of "Allegro barbaro". It is dominated by a furiously wild theme which is punctuated in several places by passages of lyricism. The second movement, "Andante lamentoso", is sad and songlike with three dramatic passages interspersed. The finale "Allegro agitato" returns to the emotional turmoil of the first movement and even quotes its themes. The work was almost surely influenced by the East European and Jewish music of Ornstein's childhood with its wailing, heart-on-its-sleeve themes and use of modalities.

In their excellent biography of the composer, "Leo Ornstein: Modernist Dilemmas, Personal Choices" Leo Ornstein: Modernist Dilemmas, Personal Choices Michael Broyles and Denise Von Glahn discuss the musical structure of the quintet in detail. The book also offers Ornstein's own perspective on his composition. Late in his life, Ornstein reflected on this music and wrote that "The Quintette is not a polite piece" and not "Avant Garde". Ornstein tended toward a spontaneous, improvisatory compositional style and said of the quintet that "It is what I heard". He wrote that "Possibly it might have been less blunt and emotionally more reserved, but if one does not sense its almost brutal emotional directness, then I have indeed failed." Ornstein continued: "The untamed emotion of the piece at first annoyed and shocked my own ears, but any attempt to modify it destroyed whatever was genuine." (Quotations are from Broyles and Von Glahn, pp. 227-228.)

The companion piece on the CD, the third string quartet, dates from 1976. The musical language of the quartet is similar to that of the quintet of nearly 50 years earlier with its dissonance, and its contrast of strongly rhythmical sections with lyricism. There are even resemblances in the patterning of each of the the three movements. Lyricism is more predominant in the quartet than in its predecessor. It is valuable to have this recording of the lovely quartet, but the work pales in light of its remarkable predecessor.

Listeners wanting to explore a neglected American composer and great chamber music off-the-beaten path will want to get to know Leo Ornstein's Quintette in this recording by the Lydian String Quartet and Janice Weber.

Robin Friedman
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