Leo Ornstein: “Wild Man” of the 1910s

Carol J. Oja

in Making Music Modern

Published in print December 2000 | ISBN: 9780195058499
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865031 | DOI:
Leo Ornstein: “Wild Man” of the 1910s

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The decade between 1910 and 1920 was the mysterious Paleolithic period of modernist music in America. In the middle of a hazy, emergent scene, a charismatic keyboard virtuoso and composer named Leo Ornstein dazzled New York City with a series of four recitals at the Bandbox Theatre in January and February 1915. Ornstein's concerts startled musical New York and even aroused orchestral conductors, in some measure, out of their lethargic method of program-making. Ornstein performed not only recent music by European composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Alexander Scriabin, Maurice Ravel, Isaac Albeniz, Erich Korngold, and Cyril Scott, but also adventurous new works of his own. With a flair for flamboyance and self-promotion, Ornstein provided an early model of how a modernist composer might make a career in the United States. He showed that modernism could be successfully marketed through clever packaging.

Keywords: Leo Ornstein; New York City; modernist music; concerts; composers; modernism; recitals

Chapter.  4953 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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