Composition 1 for Cello and Piano 07:19

Liner Notes

The date of Ornstein’s lyrical, passionate lament known as Composition No. 1 for Cello and Piano (sometimes also identified as Composition 36) remains unknown, as are the circumstances surrounding or generating its creation.

Whether intentionally or not, the piece clearly reflects perceived modal features of eastern European Jewish melos as well as some idiomatic cantorial gestures, tone colorations, and sighs. Pentatonic echoes, most transparent in the opening piano phrases—but recurring throughout at various points—and at the conclusion are reminiscent of French impressionism (particularly Debussy and Ravel); but also of certain prayer modes of the Ashkenazi rite. The stirring, melancholic cello lines unfold with the intensity of a cantorial elegy or supplication studded with a few subtle idiomatic cantorial ornaments and prominently featuring one of the most emblematic properties of eastern European Jewish folksong as well as synagogue music: the augmented interval formed by the lowered second/raised third degrees of the scale.

In or around 1920 Ornstein wrote his second sonata for cello and piano, which, more than a half century later, his wife characterized as “one long glorious melody line.” She also made reference to two additional movements of which her husband had written parts, sections, drafts, or at least sketches—indicating that the sonata’s single movement (the form in which it still exists) did not necessarily constitute the entire piece as originally intended. Apparently, Ornstein had shelved his work on the piece temporarily after completing the single movement (probably intended as its first movement, although that cannot be known with certainty), necessarily turning his attention to the resumption that autumn of his concert schedule. He did not return to it. In their studies on Ornstein and his music, Professors Michael Broyles and Denise Von Glahn have suggested the possibility that this Composition No. 1 might have been the intended slow movement of that second cello sonata.



Composer: Leo Ornstein

Length: 07:19
Genre: Chamber

Performers: Joshua Gordon, Cello;  Randall Hodgkinson, Piano

Additional Credits:

 Publisher: Carl Fischer


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