À la Chinoise
, Op 39, dedicated to the pianist-composer Rudolf Ganz (another American-immigrant composer—and Busoni student—whose music deserves some serious re-examination), creates its effect by superposing the pentatonic melodic material high in the treble with chromatic swirls lower down the keyboard, later reversing the relationship. Michael Sellers, a Ganz student who was the first to record À la Chinoise
, explained that it was ‘a musical impression of the composer’s first visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown’; Ornstein often played it on tour, his wife recalled, ‘and even in the backward towns it was always a sensation. It was easy for people to see the picture of scraps of music coming from the windows far and near and to get the weird sounds of the language in the conversation of hurried passers-by in the street’.
from notes by Martin Anderson © 2002