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Program 667: Leo Ornstein at 100

KALW Broadcast Date: September 5, 2021 | Host: Liam Herb

On this Music from Other Minds, an archival rebroadcast of Charles Amirkhanian’s 1992 celebration of the 100th birthday of Leo Ornstein. Severo Ornstein, the son of the composer, is in the studio with Amirkhanian to provide commentary, while Leo Ornstein and another near centenarian, Nicolas Slonimsky, are interviewed by phone. The discussion centers on Ornstein’s early history as a wunderkind pianist in the 1910s, and his enormous output of music over nine decades of composing. Slonimsky details a recent revival of Ornstein’s music in his native Russia and Severo talks of his efforts to get Ornstein’s music back into print.

Performance of “Echo Primitiv” from 9 Arabesques for Piano, Op. 42, composed 1918-1920, by pianist Marthanne Verbit.

First American broadcast of Suicide in an Airplane, composed in 1913 and performed here from the Dutch radio station VPRO, recorded on March 16, 1991.

Excerpt from Ornsteins Piano Concerto, composed 1925, with William Wesney, piano, and the Yale University Symphony Orchestra. Ornstein gave the original performance at the piano with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. This is an exceptional work in Ornsteins oeuvre, as he composed mainly for the piano.

Pianist Michael Sellers performs “The Battle,” the eighth of ten pieces from the Poems of 1917, Op. 41 (from an Orion recording).

Flautist Barbara Chaffee and pianist Marvin Tartak perform the Poem for Flute & Piano, recorded November 7, 1988, at a San Francisco Contemporary Music Players concert.

Ornstein Centenary Program, Part 2 highlights:

Discussion of Hebraic Fantasy for Violin & Piano, composed in 1929 for the occasion of Albert Einstein’s 50th birthday, and originally performed for him by Leo Ornstein.

Hebraic Fantasy for Violin & Piano, performed by Daniel Stepner and Marthanne Verbit at American Hall in New York, December 1982.

Performance of 1st movement of String Quartet #2, Op. 99, by the Pro Arte Quartet at St. Norberts College in Green Bay, Wisconsin for the celebration of Ornstein’s 95th birthday in 1987.

Interview with musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky. After some phone problems, Slonimsky explains that he recently spent five weeks in Russia. He delivered much of Ornstein’s piano music to his nephew, the composer Sergey Slonimsky (nine symphonies, etc.), who would be disseminating the music for an Ornstein centenary celebration. Discussion of Slonimsky’s ongoing work with new editions of Bakers Dictionary of Musicians, and Music since 1900.

Excerpt from beginning of 2nd movement of String Quartet #3 (1976), performed by the New Boston Quartet from a 1976 Serenus recording (SRS 12089), now out of print.

Program Audio

30-Second Spot

Track Info & Links

Title: Leo Ornstein Centenary Program, 1992
Producer: Charles Amirkhanian
Guests: Leo Ornstein, Nicolas Slonimsky, Severo Ornstein


Title: Violin Sonata (posthumous)
Composer: Leo Ornstein
Performer: Francesco Parrino violin; Maud Renier piano
Recording Title: Complete Violin Sonatas of Leo Ornstein
Record Label: Brilliant Classics
Catalog Number: 95079

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