Beethoven - Piano works: John Ogdon

The BBC Legends series unearthed a molten, volcanic quality from John Ogdon, one of the most phenomenally gifted British pianists

Composer: Beethoven, Schubert
Repertoire: Piano Concerto No.5 and 32 Variations (Beethoven); Piano Sonata in C minor, D958 (Schubert)
Artists: John Ogdon (piano); BBC Northern/Horenstein
Rating: 5/5
Genre: Orchestral/Instrumental
Label: BBC Legends BBCL 4142-2

Ogdon was joint winner of the 1962 Tchaikovsky Competition with Ashkenazy, but little more than a decade later suffered a severe nervous breakdown from which he never fully recovered.

The ‘Emperor’ is a live 1969 performance, and although many may find the recording requires a degree of tolerance (including an occasional high-pitched buzzing), Ogdon’s driving intensity carries all before it. But the main reason for buying this disc lies with the studio solo numbers (engineered in stereo in 1972), which possess an electrifying quality recalling Horowitz in his prime. The firebrand, ‘sturm-und-drang’ physicality of Beethoven’s Variations comes surging off the page, yet it’s the Sonata that is truly indispensable. Many pianists treat Schubert with kid gloves but not Ogdon, who grabs the score by the scruff of the neck and never lets go.