JOHN OGDON (1937-1989): Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3, Sonatina, Variations and Fugue, Theme and Variations, Dance Suite, Varlaam's Song.
Catalogue Number: 08P076
Label: Enharmonic Records
Description: Ogdon's titanic gifts as performer - he was a pianist sui generis; there's almost no point in comparing him to anybody else - largely eclipsed his very considerable output as composer. He was no casual dabbler; he composed throughout his life, and left a substantial body of powerful, superbly written music - especially, though by no means exclusively, for his own instrument. Fortunately, this 1979 recital preserves his own masterful interpretations of six significant works, most of which he never recorded commercially. In general, Ogdon's piano writing, unsurprisingly, often reflects characteristics of his playing, which is to say that, as required (though never gratuitously) it makes uncompromising virtuosic requirements of the performer and requires a vast dynamic range from organo pieno sonorities to ethereal threads of sound on the margins of audibility. While a rich, highly chromatic approach to tonality underpins much of his vocabulary, with traces of the grand romantic piano composers, it should be remembered that he was part of a group of young firebrand British modernists that included Maxwell Davies, Birtwistle and Goehr, so he displays no aversion to spiky dissonances and frank atonality as the mood took him - the brilliantly inventive Variations and Fugue, for instance, veers wildly between opposing æsthetics reminiscent of his friends Ronald Stevenson on the one hand, and Peter Maxwell Davies on the other. The Theme and Variations and Sonatina are more conventionally tonal; the two substantial sonatas are powerful and full of character and atmosphere, with a huge and varied range of expression and mood, tending toward the concentrated, driven and at times, apocalyptic. The Mussorgsky transcription - a free fantasia, really - applies this plethora of technical resources to the melody, almost overwhelming it in two minutes of sheer compositional exuberance. John Ogdon (piano). Recorded live in Bloomington, IN, April 15, 1979.