John Ogdon – Mendelssohn Concertos (Testament)

0 of 5 stars

Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.25
Piano Concerto No.2 in D minor, Op.40
Rondo brillante in E flat, Op.29
The Holy Boy
Danse nègre, Op.58/5
Lotus Land, Op.47/1

John Ogdon (piano)

London Symphony Orchestra
Aldo Ceccato

Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London – Mendelssohn in September 1969, solo pieces in July 1972

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: April 2003

An immediate reaction to the current recorded state of Mendelssohn’s piano concertos is that a pianist with technical brio, sensitivity, generosity, weight and delicacy is needed. Cue John Ogdon. While one can enjoy things from Perahia (Sony) and Hough (Hyperion), albeit very little in Thibaudet’s ram-raiding Decca traversals, just a few bars into the invigorating opening of the First Concerto finds Ogdon scintillating the music in the most natural way – nothing forced, precious or enervated. Throughout the sunny lyricism, athleticism and simple good nature of these concertos, and the robust and amiable Rondo, Ogdon’s pertinent sense of tempo and line is irresistible. The ’Presto’ Finale of the G minor is puckish rather than made a vehicle for empty display, while the more ample curves of the D minor are sounded with dignity and feeling. I’ve never quite understood the neglect this concerto receives – or the underrating of Mendelssohn generally – and it gladdens the heart to hear an artist of Ogdon’s abilities bring such dedication and perception to these splendid works.

Aldo Ceccato and the LSO provide a telling and very-together accompaniment. Just the right amount of time is taken to let this music speak as it should – nothing sanctimonious, nothing superficial – together with an appreciation of the music on its own terms; its character and delight. The recording is immediate and well balanced.

The encores, pleasurable English miniatures, are played with feeling and insight – John Ireland’s The Holy Boy is more effective on strings, which is not to deny Ogdon’s concentration or the piano’s black-and-white revealing of harmony; the pastoral April is rather Ravelian. Of Cyril Scott’s mysterious fancies, his contented Lotus Land and perky Danse enjoy Ogdon’s affection. This desirable CD documents Ogdon’s open-hearted response to diverse repertoire, cut short with his early death in 1989.

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