File Man-Mus/52 - Letter from John Ogdon to Barbara Morris

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GB GB1179 Man-Mus-Man-Mus/52


Letter from John Ogdon to Barbara Morris


  • 19-Feb-61 (Creation)

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John Andrew Howard Ogdon. (b Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts., 27 Jan 1937; d London, 1 Aug 1989). English pianist and composer. His first serious piano study was at the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1945 with Iso Elinson. Later teachers included Claud Biggs and Egon Petri, Richard Hall and George Lloyd. As a student he gave the premières of works by Goehr, Maxwell Davies and himself as part of the Manchester New Music Group. He first attracted attention in 1958 when at short notice he replaced an indisposed soloist in Liverpool and performed Brahms's Second Concerto almost at sight. Later that year in the same city he gave the first of his many performances of Busoni's Concerto with a mastery that astounded the audience. His London recital début in 1959 was equally memorable, so complete was his technical command, so refreshing and true his interpretative imagination. He first appeared at the Proms later that year. In 1960 he gained the Busoni Prize and the following year received the Liszt Prize in London. In 1962 he shared with Vladimir Ashkenazy the coveted first prize in the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition, an achievement that launched his international career. Ogdon's vast repertory and recorded legacy embraced almost every imaginable aspect of pianism. Already well known for performing popular Classical and Romantic masterpieces and an astonishing variety of 20th-century music, he went on to champion important and lesser-known music from past and present, most notably Alkan, Liszt and Busoni and many of his own contemporaries and compatriots, giving numerous first performances along the way and making many notable recordings. He also gave many duet recitals with Brenda Lucas, whom he married in 1960. A prolific composer, especially of keyboard music, he saw the act of composition as an indispensable part of his overall musical development which influenced his approach to performance. No pianistic challenge proved too much for him; his capacity to absorb substantial works at a glance has already passed into legend and helped him conquer peaks of piano literature hitherto considered unscalable. Modest in demeanour, economical and undemonstrative in his keyboard manner, he was, like most great pianists, a sympathetic chamber musician and accompanist; at the same time his colossal range and control of dynamics, digital brilliance and seemingly limitless resources of physical stamina enabled him to unleash torrents of virtuosity with ease, although always at the service of the music. A widely read man of profound intellect who never took any repertory for granted, he often wrote copious notes about pieces; he even arrived at one recording session clutching his substantial essay on Chopin's G minor Ballade. During the 1970s he suffered increasingly from mental illness which was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. The most outstanding achievement of his final years, when his condition was largely stabilized, was his recording and performance of Sorabji's massive Opus clavicembalisticum. To hold an entire audience's attention throughout more than four hours of almost unremitting complexity relieved only by transcendental virtuosity is a tribute to Ogdon's unique genius as well as to the emotional and intellectual power of Sorabji's music. At recording sessions for this work he generally chose to warm up with Busoni's Fantasia contrappuntistica; the four-CD boxed set which was released a few months after Sorabji's death has come to be regarded as the crowning glory of Ogdon's career. His own death a few weeks later, at the age of only 52, robbed the musical world of one of the most remarkable figures in the history of piano playing. [Above information taken from an article by Alistair Hinton on Grove Online,, accessed 19 March 2008].

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John Odgon replies to a letter sent to him by Barbara Silverstone (nee Morris) regarding a recital due to take place on 12 Mar [1961?]. John Ogdon states that he has to attend another concert on that date but suggests his wife, Brenda Lucas could give a recital in his place.

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