John Ogden as shown on BBC4

New John Ogdon TV Show on BBC 4

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Piano lovers please note that in a new show for BBC 4, Brenda,  Richard and Annabel tell the personal story of John Ogdon: the Husband, Father and Genius. Featuring new archive and contemporary performances as well as interviews with those who knew him well. Living With Genius is a profile of one of Britain’s greatest classical pianists, John Ogdon, and of one of the most successful musical partnerships of the last 50 years, that of Ogdon and his wife Brenda Lucas Ogdon.

Ogdon rose to success in 1962 as the first British finalist to win the International Tchaikovsky Competition where he was awarded joint first prize with Vladimir Ashkenazy. He met his wife, Brenda Lucas, whilst they were students at the Royal Manchester College of Music. They married in 1960, and throughout the decade that followed were invited to perform as a piano duo at music festivals across the globe. Ogdon was in high demand, playing more than 200 concerts a year. However this began to take its toll, with exhaustion playing a part in his eventual mental breakdown.

Using a range of sources including rare fly-on-the-wall footage, new access to footage from the 1962 Tchaikovsky Competition and interviews with his wife, children and several of his contemporaries, this film will provide a penetrating insight into the price of success, both psychological and personal.

Following John Ogdon: Living With Genius will be John Ogdon: A Musical Tribute (8.30pm), a tribute concert performed by internationally renowned concert pianist Peter Donohoe which was recorded earlier this year.

The documentary was directed by BAFTA/RTS winning director Zoe Dobson, and produced by Brighton based indie back2back productions. Commissioned for BBC Four by Greg Sanderson Commissioning Editor, Arts, Music and Events. It was Executive Produced by back2back Managing Director David Notman-Watt and BBC Radio 3 presenter and former news anchor Katie Derham.

BOOK REVIEW:

Piano Man – John Ogdon

‘The gentle giant’ was how John Ogdon was often known in his lifetime. Charles Beauclerk’s enormously insightful and well-written new biography, the first to tell the full story of the English pianist, looks well behind the words ‘gentle’ and ‘giant’. Tormented by mental illness in the last part of his short life and far from gentle towards his wife (who may not have really been the companion he should have had), Ogdon’s social abilities were a mixture of spoiled and helpless. It is disturbing reading, and Beauclerk does not blame any one individual for what happened, however, he is hard on those who failed to help Ogdon at the right time.

Sadly, even today, the story of Ogdon’s turbulent personal life overshadows the fact that he was undoubtedly the greatest pianist ever to come from the British Isles. His sight-reading abilities were such that he could immediately play a whole symphony from the score faultlessly on the piano. He was often asked by concert organisers to step in at the very last minute for an indisposed pianist and play whatever was on the programme, often having learned an entire piano concerto in just hours.

The world became Ogdon’s oyster after his sensational joint first prize win (with Ashkenazy) at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962 and he made numerous fantastic recordings; many of them, such as his recording of the Busoni Piano Concerto, will remain forever in the catalogue. His championing of contemporary composers was ground-breaking. A prolific composer himself, he was in his element sitting at the piano surrounded by his fellow composers such as Peter Maxwell Davies and Ronald Stevenson. This is an absorbing and read, and will come as a real eye-opener for those who knew little about the gentle giant.

Piano Man: A Life of John Ogdon by Charles Beauclerk; Simon & Schuster (ISBN: 978-0-85720-011-2)

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