Saturday 1 August 2009

John Ogdon

While the Yard finds himself museless, me I find myself in the grip of a bastard 'summer cold'. But I don't complain. Yes I do...
Anyway, today is the 20th anniversary of the death of the prodigiously gifted pianist John Ogdon (and, oddly, the 12th anniversary of Sviatoslav Richter's death). I saw Ogdon twice in my life. The first time was on a boyhhood holiday with my brother and grandmother at some seaside resort (it might have been Folkestone, still at that time a genteel resort). My grandmother took us to a recital by Ogdon, who played the Moonlight sonata and I can't remember what else. I was duly impressed, but my grandmother - a woman whose cultural horizons were not of the broadest - was less convinced. 'He's good,' she opined, 'but he's not as good as Russ Conway, is he?' Many years later, I was at the launch of a book about children's radio when I noticed a plump, tweed-coated, bear-like man with a shock of curly grey hair wandering vaguely around the edges of the crowd looking bewildered. With a shock, I realised that it was Ogdon - a fact confirmed when a Radio 3 music producer pounced on him and swept him away. This must have been shortly before his death.
Here's a snatch of Ogdon in his prime, playing the Hammerklavier.


  1. Get well soon, Nige. It probably is pig.

  2. That old chestnut the moonlight becomes turbocharged when played by Ogden, his missus, Brenda Lucas wasn't a bad ivory tinkler either. IMP Classics have an excellent 3 CD set of his, and her playing.
    For a summer cold to start don't you sort of need a summer, Nige. At the moment it's 16 degrees and um, er, raining.

  3. Thanks for the reminder of a great talent, lost to us far too early. Ogdon was, and is revered in Russia, where they know a few things about piano playing. I have him to thank for an introduction to Feruccio Busoni, via the massive and wonderful piano concerto-from there it was but a short step to the unique sound world of the unfinished Doktor Faust, which bowled me over at ENO a decade ago.

  4. The first and last time I heard Ogden performing was at the Royal Albert Hall (Tchaikovsky's 1st) and I believe the the first performaance after his illness/breakdown. Some things are worth remembering and thank you for jogging my memory.

  5. Nige, thanks for the reminiscence.

    Ogdon was a bloody brilliant pianist and I remember being shocked reading his obituary in The Guardian.