Leo' Ornstein's Suicide in an Airplane is #8 on the aworks Top 10 Tracks of 2004. While some might think this program music grim, I find the piece for piano invigorating (if I put myself in the frame of mind of the perils of early aviation). Ornstein's piece captures the raw power of early mechanical flight as well as its swirling, soaring character, by varying the dynamics as well as the depth of texture. Edward Wright on Amazon calls it "descriptive near-minimalism" but to me, it is much richer and dramatic than that might suggest.
Martin Anderson writes the program notes to the Marc-Andre Hamelin recording. Of interest:
- Ornstein was born in the Ukraine and his family came to the US in 1906 to escape anti-semitism.
- "He gave the first US performances of music by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Kodaly, and others."
- After composing his Violin Sonata in 1915, he realized to continue in that vein would result in "complete chaos."
- He wrote his Eighth Piano Sonata while in his late nineties, which may be the record for oldest composer.
- While I am aware of say, George Antheil's having both a conventional and a radical side, I wasn't aware that Ornstein was composing more traditional music concurrently with his modernist works. Anderson says this is a sign of the composer making use of his own diversity.