Sunday, April 12, 2015

John Ogdon - The Complete RCA Album Collection

RCA/Sony Classical’s six-CD album of John Ogdon’s complete RCA Red Seal recordings plus an additional Liszt recital from Japan coincides with Charles Beauclerk’s magisterial book Piano Man: A Life of John Ogdon (reviewed in June) to celebrate an artist often described as ‘the greatest of all British pianists’. Certainly he was the most prodigiously gifted, with an engulfing repertoire and a sight-reading ability that left his fellow musicians open-mouthed. Yet these are mere marginal issues when you stop to consider the actual playing, and virtually all these discs contradict those whose memories remain shadowed by the muddles and confusions caused by the mental instability of Ogdon’s final years. In one outsize offering after another, his demoniac temperament (one also blessed with an ethereal delicacy and the most fine-spun sonority) could turn page after page into a raging inferno.
Beneath Ogdon’s startlingly shy, faltering and deferential social manner lay a man possessed. If ever there was a one‑off pianist it was John Ogdon, a quality noted by Vladimir Ashkenazy (his co-winner in Moscow’s 1962 Tchaikovsky Competition), who spoke of something different and exotic, and a charisma that mesmerised Russian audiences. Ogdon may not have possessed that final and perfect sheen so admired by Ivan Moravec (himself an arch-perfectionist) but he had a communicative force far beyond such nicety, an elemental rage that could just as easily transform into a beguiling delicacy.
An exception from such glory is provided by the Liszt recital, which ideally — and despite a superb and endlessly rejuvenated way with the Second Hungarian Rhapsody — should not have been issued. Here Ogdon over-reaches himself and his playing implodes, driving out all sense of perspective. Why so frantic in ‘Feux follets’ from the Transcendental Etudes (it is marked 'Allegretto'), where poetry and lightness are routed from the field ? ‘Au bord d’une source’ (the first book of Années de pèlerinage) is an alpine stream, not Niagara Falls, while the ‘Tarantella’ from Venezia e Napoli is brutally fast.
But then there is Alkan’s Concerto for Solo Piano, less classically sculpted than by Ronald Smith (EMI, 1/70), greater in imaginative scope than from Marc‑André Hamelin (Hyperion, A/07), a nonchalant dismissal of so many seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Both the Rachmaninov sonatas, too, are given with massive strength and impetus. The Second may be played in the sadly truncated 1931 revision but, when you hear Ogdon’s compulsive brilliance in the final pages or in the First Sonata’s first movement’s churning development, it seems churlish to complain. You might as well stop a turbine with a toothpick.
By way of Ogdon’s range and mastery there is nothing fraught or over-driven in his performance of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, the so-called Mount Everest of the keyboard. Here the playing contradicts all possible preconceptions and is unfailingly lucid, the vast spans of the Adagio sostenuto given with an inwardness and sense of the ineffable, leaving others to strain for depth and effect.
Nielsen’s piano music hardly courts easily popularity, its formidable and icy domain remembering in the clear and contrapuntal pages of the mighty Op. 32 Chaconne classical forebears, while retaining an ambience and atmosphere rigorously its own. Ogdon, a tireless explorer of the less familiar, is at his towering best, and whether in austerity or elaboration (the softly flowing semiquavers that close the Theme and Variations) his performances could hardly be excelled.
This leaves me with Peter Mennin’s sinister, relentless whirlwind of a Concerto. And if your ear tires of such busy virtuosity, you can only marvel at Ogdon’s prodigious command. He is no less successful in Richard Yardumian’s Passacaglia, Recitative and Fugue, music less slim in content and more mystically inclined than Mennin’s Concerto.
Listening to these records (in many cases being reacquainted with performances first issued on LP) has been an overwhelming experience. During his great days, Ogdon was a richly inclusive artist, making the constant reference to ‘a gentle giant’ limiting. His gifts and scope were limitless and immense. True, there were times, even during his early days, when he could rage out of control ; but even then his recreative and pent-up fury were an awe‑inspiring alternative to the more puny attribute of control. The transfers are magnificent and the accompanying booklet is lavishly illustrated. In an age of much anodyne playing, Ogdon’s recreative vision and frenzy will always stand out as a force of nature.
Bryce Morrison

Source :

John Ogdon
The Complete RCA
Album Collection


Cd. 1

Carl Nielsen

1 Chaconne Op. 32  10:15

Suite Op. 45
2 I. Allegretto un pochettino  3:31
3 II. Poco moderato  2:24
4 III. Molto adagio e patètico  5:41
5 IV. Allegretto innocente  2:00
6 V. Allegretto vivo  0:58
7 VI. Allegro non troppo ma vigoroso  8:01

Symphonic Suite Op. 8
8 I. Intonation. Maestoso  2:16
9 II. Quasi allegretto  3:42
10 III. Andante  6:03
11 IV. Finale. Allegro  3:47

Three Piano Pieces, Op. 59
12 I. Impromptu. Allegro fluente -  2:43
Moderato e molto pesante
13 II. Molto adagio  3:16
14 III. ALlegro non toppo - Più allegro  5:16

Recorded at Decca Studio n° 3, London ; September 5, 1967 [# 1, 8-14] ; & September 4, 1967 [# 2-7]


Cd. 2

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Piano Sonata n° 1 in D minor, Op. 28
1 I. Allegro moderato  11:55
2 II. Lento  8:58
3 III. Allegro molto  13:01

Piano Sonata n° 2 in B-Flat minor, Op. 36
4 I. Allegro agitato  7:30
5 II. Non allegro - Lento - attacca  6:51
6 III. L'Istesso tempo - Allegro molto  4:45

Recorded at Bishopgate Institute, London ; May 18 & 19, 1968


Cd. 3

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Piano Sonata n° 29 in B-Flat major, Op.106
"Grosse Sonate für das Hammerklavier"
1 I. Allegro  10:45
2 II. Scherzo (Assai vivace)  2:43
3 III. Adagio sostenuto. Appassionato  15:22
e con molto sentimento
4 IV. Largo - Allegro risoluto  12:11

Recorded at Decca Studio n° 3, London ; September 6 & 7, 1967


Cd. 4

Peter Mennin


Piano Concerto

1 I. Maestoso - Allegro  11:12
2 II. Adagio religioso  8:26
3 III. Allegro vivace  5:56

Richard Yardumian

Passcaglia, Recitative and Fugue
for Piano & Orchestra

4 I. Passacaglia  8:17
5 II. Recitative  5:37
6 III. Fugue  3:44

John Ogdon - p
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Igor Buketoff - dir.

Recorded at Walthamstow, London ; February 5, 1968 [# 1-4] ; & July 22, 1967 [# 4-6]


Cd. 5

Charles-Valentin Alkan


Concerto for solo Piano
(N° 8-10 from
12 Etudes in All Minor Keyes, Op. 39)

1 I. Allegro assai  26:44
2 II. Adagio  11:47
3 III. Allegretto alla barbaresca  10:17

Recorded in Great Britain ; September 1 & 2, 1969


Cd. 6

Franz Liszt


1 Hungarian Rhapsody n° 2 in C-Sharp minor 2 244/2  9:02
Lento a capriccio - Lassan. Andante mesto - Firska. Vivace -
Tempo giusto (Vivace) - Prestissimo

Etudes d'exécution transcendantes S 139
2 Mazeppa, in D minor (n° 4). Allegro  7:22
3 Feux follets, in B-Flat major (n° 5). Allegretto  3:05

4 La Campanella  4:02
Etude in G-Sharp minor S 141/3
(Grandes Etudes de Paganini). Allegretto

5 Au bord d'une source S 160/4  3:03
(Années de pèlerinage - 1ère année : Suisse).
Allegretto grazioso

6 Il Pensieroso S 161/2   4:36
(Années de pèlerinage - 2e année : Italie).

7 Tarentella S 162/3  7:12
(Années de pèlerinage - 2e année, supplément : Venezia e Napoli).
Presto - Canzone Napolitana

8 Grand Galop chromatique in E-Flat major S 219  3:52
9 Mephisto Waltz n° 1 S 514  9:28
Allegro vivace (quasi presto)

Recorded at Aoyama Tower Hall, Tokyo, Japan ; June 11 & 12, 1972


John Ogdon - p


Melanchthon said...


Cd. 1
Cd. 2
Cd. 3
Cd. 4
Cd. 5
Cd. 6

carrolin said...

Muchas gracias Mel

Horacio said...

Great! Thanks a lot! Fantastic post!

musician3 said...


SPES said...

¡Que maravilla Mel! Muchas gracias.

Pepin said...

Estupendo Mel. Precioso. Gracias

Wade Cottingham said...

thank you Mel !!! very much !!!

carlo87 said...

What a pity, links don't work...

carlo87 said...

Could you reupload this pearl?

carlo87 said...

I think John Ogdon was a musical genius, I have heard him play just once, in mid-70, in a Liszt - Alkan programm. He could play softly or fortissimo, and he was so free. Incredible!