Notes and Editorial Reviews
These performances count among the finest in John Ogdon's large yet uneven discography. No matter how thick or unwieldy the orchestrally conceived piano writing gets in the Etudes-Tableaux, Ogdon nonchlantly sails through Rachmaninov's challenges, frequently with more fire and ferocity than his younger countrymen Howard Shelley and Gordon Fergus-Thompson. Sometimes Ogdon's swift tempos cause his articulation to blur in swirling runs (the E-flat minor Op. 33 No. 5 or F-sharp minor Op. 39 No. 3 selections) yet never at the expense of inner drama and textural variety. These 1971 recordings, moreover, infinitely outclass the pianist's ragged, labored 1988 remakes that EMI unwisely excavated in 2002.
The Busoni selections
date from 1960, prior to Ogdon's first-place triumph in the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition (a prize he shared with Vladimir Ashkenazy). They impress even more. Ogdon's Busoni relates to blueprint etchings as opposed to the oil paintings Paul Jacobs' Busoni interpretations evoke. The Carmen Fantasy is lithe and tonally spare; its elaborate filigree and contrapuntal sequences are deftly executed and pedaled hardly at all. Ogdon similarly lets his fingers rather than feet do the hard talking in the Elegy and cruelly demanding Chopin Variations. Occasional tape warbles and dropouts suggest that EMI's master source material has aged a bit. But the piano playing itself defies time.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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