Ornstein was the first important composer to make extensive use of the tone cluster. As a pianist, he was considered a world-class talent. By the mid-1920s, he had walked away from his fame and soon disappeared from popular memory. Though he gave his last public concert before the age of forty, he continued writing music for another half-century and beyond. Largely forgotten for decades, he was rediscovered in the mid-1970s. Ornstein completed his eighth and final piano sonata in September 1990 at the age of ninety-four, making him the oldest published composer in history at the time (a mark since passed by Elliott Carter).