04 June 2014
In a new commission for BBC Four, Brenda and their children Richard and Annabel tell the personal story of <em>John Ogdon: the Husband, Father and Genius</em>. Featuring unique archive and contemporary performance as well as candid interviews with those who knew him best<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> ...
Piano Man – John Ogdon
‘The gentle giant’ was how John Ogdon was often known in his lifetime. Charles Beauclerk’s enormously insightful and well-written new biography, the first to tell the full story of the English pianist, looks well behind the words ‘gentle’ and ‘giant’. Tormented by mental illness in the last part of his short life and far from gentle towards his wife (who may not have really been the companion he should have had), Ogdon’s social abilities were a mixture of spoiled and helpless. It is disturbing reading, and Beauclerk does not blame any one individual for what happened, however, he is hard on those who failed to help Ogdon at the right time.
Sadly, even today, the story of Ogdon’s turbulent personal life overshadows the fact that he was undoubtedly the greatest pianist ever to come from the British Isles. His sight-reading abilities were such that he could immediately play a whole symphony from the score faultlessly on the piano. He was often asked by concert organisers to step in at the very last minute for an indisposed pianist and play whatever was on the programme, often having learned an entire piano concerto in just hours.
The world became Ogdon’s oyster after his sensational joint first prize win (with Ashkenazy) at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962 and he made numerous fantastic recordings; many of them, such as his recording of the Busoni Piano Concerto, will remain forever in the catalogue. His championing of contemporary composers was ground-breaking. A prolific composer himself, he was in his element sitting at the piano surrounded by his fellow composers such as Peter Maxwell Davies and Ronald Stevenson. This is an absorbing and read, and will come as a real eye-opener for those who knew little about the gentle giant.
Piano Man: A Life of John Ogdon by Charles Beauclerk; Simon & Schuster (ISBN: 978-0-85720-011-2)
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