Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)


Ogdon, John (Andrew Howard)

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Ogdon, John (Andrew Howard)


(b Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts., 27 Jan 1937; d London, 1 Aug 1989). English pianist and composer. His first serious piano study was at the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1945 with Iso Elinson. Later teachers included Claud Biggs and Egon Petri, Richard Hall and George Lloyd. As a student he gave the premières of works by Goehr, Maxwell Davies and himself as part of the Manchester New Music Group. He first attracted attention in 1958 when at short notice he replaced an indisposed soloist in Liverpool and performed Brahms's Second Concerto almost at sight. Later that year in the same city he gave the first of his many performances of Busoni's Concerto with a mastery that astounded the audience. His London recital début in 1959 was equally memorable, so complete was his technical command, so refreshing and true his interpretative imagination. He first appeared at the Proms later that year. In 1960 he gained the Busoni Prize and the following year received the Liszt Prize in London. In 1962 he shared with Vladimir Ashkenazy the coveted first prize in the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition, an achievement that launched his international career.

Ogdon's vast repertory and recorded legacy embraced almost every imaginable aspect of pianism. Already well known for performing popular Classical and Romantic masterpieces and an astonishing variety of 20th-century music, he went on to champion important and lesser-known music from past and present, most notably Alkan, Liszt and Busoni and many of his own contemporaries and compatriots, giving numerous first performances along the way and making many notable recordings. He also gave many duet recitals with Brenda Lucas, whom he married in 1960. A prolific composer, especially of keyboard music, he saw the act of composition as an indispensable part of his overall musical development which influenced his approach to performance. No pianistic challenge proved too much for him; his capacity to absorb substantial works at a glance has already passed into legend and helped him conquer peaks of piano literature hitherto considered unscalable. Modest in demeanour, economical and undemonstrative in his keyboard manner, he was, like most great pianists, a sympathetic chamber musician and accompanist; at the same time his colossal range and control of dynamics, digital brilliance and seemingly limitless resources of physical stamina enabled him to unleash torrents of virtuosity with ease, although always at the service of the music. A widely read man of profound intellect who never took any repertory for granted, he often wrote copious notes about pieces; he even arrived at one recording session clutching his substantial essay on Chopin's G minor Ballade.

During the 1970s he suffered increasingly from mental illness which was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. The most outstanding achievement of his final years, when his condition was largely stabilized, was his recording and performance of Sorabji's massive Opus clavicembalisticum. To hold an entire audience's attention throughout more than four hours of almost unremitting complexity relieved only by transcendental virtuosity is a tribute to Ogdon's unique genius as well as to the emotional and intellectual power of Sorabji's music. At recording sessions for this work he generally chose to warm up with Busoni's Fantasia contrappuntistica; the four-CD boxed set which was released a few months after Sorabji's death has come to be regarded as the crowning glory of Ogdon's career. His own death a few weeks later, at the age of only 52, robbed the musical world of one of the most remarkable figures in the history of piano playing. Ogdon's compositions, many in manuscript and some incomplete, are detailed in S. Atman: The Compositions of John Ogdon: a Catalogue (MS, 1990). A substantial collection of his manuscripts is held at the RNCM, Manchester.

WRITINGS


‘Liszt's Solo Piano Music (1861–86)’, Franz Liszt: the Man and his Music, ed. A. Walker (London, 1970, 2/1976)

‘The Romantic Tradition’, Keyboard Music, ed. D. Matthews (Harmondsworth, 1972)

‘Kaikhosru Sorabji and Herman Melville’, Sorabji: Opus clavicembalisticum, Altarus AIR–CD–9075 [disc notes]

BIBLIOGRAPHY


S. Regan: ‘John Ogdon: Pianist off the Beaten Track’, Gramophone, xlix (1971–2), 165–7

B. Lucas: Virtuoso: the Story of John Ogdon (London, 1981)

C. Rice and R. Stevenson: In Memoriam John Ogdon (Ridgefield, CT, 1993)

ALISTAIR HINTON


Ogelby, John.


See Ogilby, John.

Ogier.


See Hoger de Laon.

Ogilby [Ogelby, Oglivie], John

(b north of Dundee, Angus, Nov 1600; d London, 4 Sept 1676). Scottish dancing-master, theatrical impresario, writer, publisher and possibly composer, active partly in Ireland. A man of extraordinary versatility who was adept at attracting influential patronage, he successfully survived many misfortunes. His career began as a dancer at the court of Charles I. After a fall during a court masque in 1621 he was forced to give up dancing and became a dancing master and choreographer. About 1633 he accompanied the Duke of Wentworth (later the Earl of Strafford) to Dublin. He is important in the history of music in Ireland as the first holder there of the title of Master of the Revels, a position created for him by the Earl as Lord Deputy on 28 February 1638. In this capacity he erected in Werburgh Street, close to Dublin Castle, the first theatre to be built in the British Isles outside London. On the outbreak of the Civil War in 1641 his theatre was closed and soon fell into ruin, and he returned destitute to England shortly after. He then turned to translating the classics, including Virgil, Aesop and Homer, and established a profitable publishing business in London issuing both his translations and travel books.

After the Restoration he attracted the attention of Charles II and outmanoeuvred William Davenant in obtaining once again, on 8 May 1661, the monopoly of theatrical interests in Ireland and immediately built the Smock Alley Theatre, which was opened in the autumn of 1662 and survived until 1787. There is evidence that he was at least to some extent versed in musical composition, since the libretto of the musical play Pompey by Mrs Philips, which was performed at the Smock Alley Theatre on 10 February 1663, states that the play concluded with ‘a Grand Masque Danc'd before Caesar and Cleopatra made as well as the other Dances and the Tunes to them by Mr John Ogilby’.

BIBLIOGRAPHY


L.T. Stockwell: ‘Dublin Theatres and Theatre Customs (1637–1820) (Kingsport, TN, 1938)

E. Halfpenny: ‘The “Entertainment” of Charles II’, ML, xxxviii (1957), 32–44 [see also letter from I. Spink, ibid., 210–12]

K.S. Van Eerde: John Ogilby and the Taste of his Times (Folkestone, 1977) [see also review by J. Kenyon, Times Literary Supplement (13 May 1977) and letter, ibid. (17 June 1977)]

BRIAN BOYDELL




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