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The Compositional Transformation and Musical Rebirth of Leo Ornstein

Description: This study focuses on the transformation of Leo Ornstein’s (1893-2002) musical language of his early years into the strikingly different approach found in his later years. Ornstein’s initial radical compositions from the mid-1910s were no doubt representative of the direction in which modern music was moving. Despite the intense fame and notoriety of his early works, Ornstein did not feel connected to the trends of modern music development, and by the end of the 1930s he withdrew from the public scene and turned to teaching. By the 1950s Ornstein had been almost forgotten, and in later life he became a very private person. He worked in almost total isolation composing a substantial amount of music well into his nineties, and died at the age of 109. The music of Ornstein’s “second life” is very different from the initial works of his early years, and most of it is unknown to the public and should be brought into scholarly light, especially since Ornstein has been considered by historians as a pivotal figure in twentieth-century music. This study examines selected music from different stages of Ornstein’s career: Wild Men’s Dance (1913), Suicide in an Airplane (1913), Arabesques (1918), A Long Remembered Sorrow (1964), Piano Sonata No. 7 (1988). A discussion of the selected compositions will provide an understanding of Ornstein’s compositional transformation, and will familiarize musicians and scholars with this widely unknown music.
Date: December 2011
Creator: Bonney, Michael
Partner: UNT Libraries