is a magical reminder of a great pianist, here caught in
collaboration with a great conductor. The magic is at full
swell in the slow movement of the Brahms, where the orchestral
outpouring is fully matched by Ogdon. Beware the perils
of live performance – around 6:10
the atmosphere is actually quite miraculous, despite
the suspect wind tuning. Towards the end, this movement
is positively spellbinding.
performance gets off to the best of starts with some lovely
horn playing. The piano recording itself is remarkably good.
If some of the edge is taken off, there remains a document
of Ogdon’s glorious tone. The interpretation itself is possibly
a little less determined than one might imagine; it is the
moments of tenderness that stand out. Energy instead is
at its height in the second movement; the orchestra, like
the pianist, is grittily determined. Listen in particular,
if you will, to the piano at around 6:27. A blacker piano sound you are unlikely
to encounter; it is as if late Liszt has suddenly appeared
on the scene. The finale is the only possible antidote to
such intensity, and here there is a real sense of play between
piano and orchestra. There is a surprisingly touching moment
when it seems the orchestra wants to get serious and the
piano replies with fury! Dialogues really are that – communications
in a way rarely encountered.
Beethoven presents an intense experience. Ogdon finds an
underlying lyricism to the first movement of Op. 111 (around
1:20 made me think of the ‘Pastoral’ Sonata). What is most impressive is
Ogdon’s grasp of the music’s long span so the whole becomes
one long outpouring – a trait that is doubly appropriate
to the heavenly second movement. There is a sort of inner
communing to the theme that can only be described as ‘rapt’.
Ogdon’s sure sense of rhythm ensures there is no untoward
pulling on the pulse - if only more players adhered to this!
Again there is a sure sense of line that runs through the
entire experience, elevating the account to sit alongside
those by Arrau (Philips and VAI DVD) and Schnabel (see review).
Siepmann’s accompanying notes are excellent. Entitled, ‘Genius,
Generosity and Grandeur’, he begins with a discussion of
the ‘big’ pianist - pointing out they are often short of
stature! - before tracing the career of the man he calls
the ‘shambling provincial giant’. Those of us who were lucky
to hear Ogdon live know exactly what he means. The Great
Man’s career is tracked from Manchester to Moscow and beyond into the unimaginable nightmare of schizophrenia. One thing
is sure, though – we are in the presence of genius when
we listen to these astonishing performances.