Leo Ornstein

Leo Ornstein was born the son of a Jewish cantor. As a child, Ornstein demonstrated exceptional talent at the piano, and was sent at age ten to the St. Petersburg Conservatory on a recommendation from his uncle, legendary pianist Josef Hofmann. Owing to renewed hostility towards Jews in Russia, Ornstein's family fled to the United States in 1907. In the U.S., Ornstein studied with Bertha Fiering Tapper at the New England Conservatory of Music and Percy Goetschius at the Institute for Music Art in New York City (later Julliard).

In the 1920s Leo Ornstein was respected as one of the chief talents on the piano recital circuit. In 1923, Ornstein premiered his Piano Concerto in Philadelphia under the baton of Leopold Stokowski. That year he also co-founded the League of Composers, going on to serve on its board of directors.

In 1933, Leo Ornstein dropped out of the concert circuit. He and his wife, Pauline, founded the Ornstein School of Music in Philadelphia, which they piloted until Leo retired in 1955. In 1936, the League of Composers commissioned his Nocturne and Dance of the Fates, which were premiered in St. Louis under Vladimir Golschmann.

In 1985, Pauline Ornstein died, and the composer relocated to Green Bay, WI. In 1990, Ornstein's son Severo published a 10-volume edition of Ornstein's piano works, coinciding with Ornstein's own final work, the Piano Sonata No. 8.