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on 11 January 2011
Ogdon is a massively underrated pianist. The stigma of his mental illness probably did much to alienate him from wider and longer critical acclaim.

This set shows Ogdon at his peak during the EMI years. There are a few recordings which have their premier for the first time on cd (such as his self penned Piano concerto and Piano Sonata) The Glazunov concerto is a bit of a rarity of Ogdon's on cd too.

All in all with the rare pieces and more popular works with shorter pieces too this is a varied collection showing a broad scope and genuine genius at the keyboard. What i always liked about Ogdon was that his personality also showed through the pieces he played. Within a few notes he was immediately identifiable as the performer.

The recordings are very good and the performances excellent. The price is also super budget and you get 4 cds into the bargain.

Addendum: The Rachmaninov & Tchaikovsky piano concertos have seen several releases over the years so for any newer listeners to Ogdon this is a fine set. For most of us who are already fans these old war horses have been in our collections for some considerable time. It is a shame that EMI haven't instead given us a few more of those (now) rarities from the same period which have never had a cd release such as:
the Lutoslawski Paganini variations
Bach prelude and fugue in c
Blake variations for piano
Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Op. 56b
Britten Introduction and Rondo alla Burlesca & Mazurka elegiaca, Op. 23 No. 2
Richard Hall 6 suites for piano
Hoddinott Piano Sonata No.2, Op. 17

- there's plenty more too, come on EMI!

Disc 1

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18
Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op.43 (previously unreleased)
Fauré: Ballade in F sharp Op.19
Litolff: Scherzo (Concerto symphonique No.4 in D minor Op.102)

Disc 2

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor Op.23
Franck: Symphonic Variations
Liszt: Hungarian Fantasia S123
Liszt arr. Busoni: Rhapsodie espagnole S254

Disc 3

Bartók: Piano Concerto No.1 Sz83 (previously unreleased)
Glazunov: Piano Concerto No.1 in F minor Op.92 (unreleased on cd)
Ogdon: Piano Concerto No.1 (unreleased on cd)

Disc 4

Ogdon: Piano Sonata (unreleased on cd)
Ogdon: Theme and Variations (unreleased on cd)
Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor S178
Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 in A minor (Rákóczy March) S244 No.15
Liszt: Valse oubliée No.1 S215 No.1
Liszt: Csárdás macabre S224
Liszt: En rêve - Nocturne S207
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This 4-cd box was issued in 2007 to mark what should have been John Ogdon's 70th birthday. Ogdon did not make 70. In his mid-30's he was stricken with a hereditary neurological disease but tried to keep up the superhuman workload that had been his norm until then, his weakened system finally succumbing to pneumonia in 1989. These four discs obviously serve as a monument to this prodigy, although several alternative selections could have served that purpose equally well. Either students of Ogdon's career and artistry or musicians simply attracted by the range of works on offer and hopeful of making a good investment should find their interest rewarded. Ogdon has probably not yet had the recognition that his colossal genius deserves. There was nothing he could not play, his technical proficiency was as near infinite as makes no difference, and there is a special sense of human sympathy about his interpretations that would surely have marked him out as a man apart if he had been spared longer.

From the `student's' point of view this set offers some of the great man's creative work in the shape of a concerto, a sonata and a set of variations. Also in the unfamiliar class is the Busoni arrangement of Liszt's Rhapsodie espagnole with orchestra, and probably the same goes for Glazunov's concerto in f minor. New to us for a different reason - namely that Ogdon refused to release it - is the Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody, and I for one would not have wanted that situation to continue. Otherwise the balance is struck with familiar fare, partly Liszt as being the composer Ogdon recorded most often, and for me the Liszt selection here divides sharply into two - the sonata vs all the rest. Liszt is not much to my taste, but this performance of the sonata had me transfixed. It is epic, it is prophetic, it is awesome. Here as in, say, Messiaen's Vingt Regards, we get a glimpse of what Ogdon the visionary really amounted to. He had an outstanding ability to make an unbroken unity out of a large piece of music, as I have reason to recall from his playing of the huge last movement of Schubert's c minor sonata, taken in what seems like a single breath. This time he has set himself a special challenge by using the version of the sonata prepared by Humphrey Searle, which is considerably longer than the version recorded by Horowitz in 1932, in the era when he was believed to be the only player in the world equal to its technical demands. More music by Liszt is a prospect I normally contemplate with dread, but in the sonata Ogdon, easily on a technical par with Horowitz, has made a partial convert.

That's the sonata, but in the other Liszt jobs here Ogdon is not my first choice as a Liszt player, Cziffra is that. I compared them in the Valse Oubliee #1, where the difference is not great, but also in the Hungarian Fantasia, where Ogdon is no match for Cziffra's diablerie. Cziffra was himself a Hungarian gipsy, of course, but the issue is more a matter of the player's touch. Ogdon's technique was colossal as I have already said, but he was not an out-and-out showman as Cziffra was when required. Ogdon does not usually elect to use a cut-diamond incisive edge on his tone, and there is quite a large category of music where that is precisely what I want. For instance, nobody could surpass Ogdon's fleetness in the Litolff Scherzo, but ...you know what I need not say again. Even in the Bartok concerto, where Ogdon's reading easily stands comparison with the superlative renderings that I own from Pollini and (Rudolf) Serkin, these maestri do incisiveness just a bit more, and all the better for that, although if the last movement served up with gusto as a bacchanale is to your taste, then Ogdon is certainly your guy.

Ogdon first came to prominence when he shared the first prize in the Moscow Tchaikovsky competition with Ashkenazy, choosing for his Tchaikovsky concerto the usual first. I even recall hearing a bit of his performance at the time. It's obviously excellent of its type, and nobody asked me to judge the competition, but for me is it simply too slow. Instead of great oompah chords at the beginning and a heavy-footed trepak for the finale, I like the way Horowitz and Toscanini did the thing, with very fast speeds in the outer movements and incredible machine-gun double octaves from Horowitz. It may be that the judges would not have liked that, certainly not from an escapee from the Soviet Union.

The Franck Symphonic Variations get a first-class performance, comparable with a similar effort from Cziffra, this time not in his showman mode. The Faure Ballade is beautifully and sensitively played, any faint fogginess in the recorded sound on the first disc being less important than in the other works there. If one number is perhaps a little below the standard of the others it is the Glazunov concerto, Ogdon succumbing to temptation to over-use the sustaining pedal; but I see that the date of this performance is 1977, and that is likely, alas, to have been significant. A Russian concerto of more consequence is Rachmaninov's second, and Ogdon's performance , give or take the recorded sound I just mentioned, can stand comparison with, say, Richter's or Cziffra's. I like it well enough done this way, but for me nobody comes near the composer with his burning urgency in the first movement, and I am pleased to note that Stephen Hough may be restoring Rachmaninov's tempo. Nobody seems to know why Ogdon would not issue the Paganini Rhapsody, but there may have been a problem with the sound. That is at least tolerable now, and I particularly recommend the performance, which is not like the sprightly Rubinstein but surprisingly similar to Cherkassky's. Two neglected masters with all-inclusive repertoires, take a salute.
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on 3 August 2009
Ogdon's career was cut short by debilitating mental illness, but at his peak (the end of the 50's to the mid-70's), he could fairly be described as Britain's greatest pianist. This was confirmed when he became joint winner of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition alongside Ashkenazy, no less. This set includes a couple of recordings that were never issued in his lifetime, Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody & the Bartok 1st Concerto, and several others haven't been available since the LP era, so altogether this is a great bargain. Highly recommended.
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on 18 November 2012
EMI have done John Ogden proud with this collection of CD's. A beautiful selection of pieces demonstrating the skills and amazing technique and interpretation this guy had. He was a great master of Liszt and Chopin. Well worth a buy and a good one to have in any music enthusiasts collection.
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on 28 August 2011
I have had this compilation in my CD player about every second week since I bought it .
I cannot understand why more people do not rate him as one of the all-time greats.
Sure , the likes of Richter , Argerich , Gilels , etc , were ( are in Argerich's case ) magnificent, but I have never heard a better version of Rachmaninov's second concerto than this one . The second movement in particular is magnificent , with a lightness of touch and beauty that is unsurpassed in this piece of music.
Certainly , in my opinion , it is much better than Ashkenazy's version with the LSO / Andre Previn , which itself is highly regarded.
For the money , it is a super buy .
The Tchaikovsky as well , is top-class .
Do yourself a favour and buy this .
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on 7 July 2014
We were totally overwhelmed with the personal service of the seller. He added some personal touches and details about these stunning works.
If we could have given more stars we would have done!
Excellent service, packaging and such a wonderful edition that will be played and enjoyed endlessly. Quality absolutely superb and a rare unique treasure from a master sadly missed.
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on 2 November 2014
An excellent set.
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