BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111 – John Ogden, piano/ Halle Orchestra/ Sir John Barbirolli – BBC Legends

by | Jul 10, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83; BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111 – John Ogden, piano/ Halle Orchestra/ Sir John Barbirolli

BBC Legends BBCL 4183-2, 71:52 (Distrib. Koch) ****:

I had the mixed pleasure of hearing John Ogden (1937-1989) perform the Ravel G Major Concerto in Atlanta, a brilliant reading by a kind of elusive ghost of a man who played, bowed, and then was gone, totally unavailable for any kind of interview. Here, we have two studio recordings Ogden made for the BBC, each epic and eminently extroverted in character, the Brahms Second Concerto with Barbirolli ((16 September 1966) and Beethoven’s last sonata (5 November 1963). The Beethoven is perhaps the more significant, coming a year after Ogden’s 1962 appearance at the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, where he shared First Prize with Vladimir Ashkenazy.

In several respects Ogden reminds me of Solomon, not so much in terms of touch and dynamic application, but for one’s sense that he grasps the large architecture of any piece in one fell swoop. The infinite degrees of nuance he brings to Beethoven’s affect-laden Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111 both fascinate and compel our attention. Doubtless, Ogden favored the large scores of Beethoven, Brahms, Alkan, and Busoni, though he lavished equal attention on miniatures by Liszt, Rachmaninov, Chopin, and Goehr. The sheer motor power of Ogden’s C Minor is quite Herculean, a sort of Olympic long-distance runner’s pace a la Paavo Nurmi.  Most impressive is the sweet cantabile everywhere evident, especially in the high-register writing in Beethoven’s Arietta. The Brahms collaboration moves with the same forward fervor. The aesthetic oneness of vision is as impressive a factor as the bravura in each of the movements of the concerto; and I find this a happier, more satisfying account of the work than that inscribed by Barbirolli with Daniel Barenboim for EMI. The D Minor Allegro appassionato second movement should have your sound system abuzz. Collectors will covet this inscription to provide them with both Brahms concertos with Ogden, the First with Leopold Stokowski having been preserved on a Music&Arts reissue.

— Gary Lemco

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