LEO ORNSTEIN (1893-2002): Piano Quintet, Op. 92, String Quartet No. 2, Op. 99.
Catalogue Number: 09R058
Reference: CDA 68084
Description: The epic three-movement quintet comes from 1927, after Ornstein had abandoned the savage modernism of his notorious early works in favor of a rich, tonal language. The stormy outer movements, with their constantly changing time signatures, are clearly quarried from the same rough material as Le sacre, with which Ornstein's work shares an exhilarating intensity and momentum. Ornstein's distinctive tonal vocabulary is generously spiced with added-note dissonances, which build to stunning climaxes in percussive chords in the highly virtuosic piano part, that recall the clusters of his earlier works, though always in a tonal context. The strings often play in rhythmic unison, creating a quasi-orchestral density of texture. The melodies - passionately declamatory in the outer movements, eloquently melancholy and songlike in the somewhat impressionistic slow movement - more often than not have a Hebraic inflection to their melodic contour. The Quartet dates from around the same time, and is in a very similar harmonic idiom. The distinctive string textures also feature limited contrapuntal argument in favour of dense textures composed of motivic material from which melodies emerge in relief, characteristically appearing in any voice with equal prominence, again with a distinct flavour of Ornstein's Jewish-Russian heritage. Marc-André Hamelin (piano), Pacifica Quartet.