Jeremy Lee writes
I should remind our dear readers that this album in its IMP label format (the one I own) is one of the many CDs produced by PDO UK that were affected by the bronzing scandal from 1989 to 1993. Evidently the CD that I own has not been affected too seriously by bronzing (in fact it doesn’t seem to have bronzed at all) but unfortunately during playback quite a lot of problems have made themselves audible. Nevertheless I thought I would review this album for what it is (was) worth, at least musically.
Recorded in May 1989, only 3 months before his death, this was one of the last recordings John Ogdon made, but as can be heard, none of his technique has deteriorated: he even seems a bit sprightlier than before, certainly considerably more lively than his enervated, clumsy, sad farce of a set of recordings that was his almost complete digital set of Rachmaninov solo piano works. In this recording he plays with his wife, Brenda Lucas Ogdon, who also sports a comparable if not superior technique. I acquired this for the Scaramouche by Darius Milhaud, and I will say straight away that it’s one of the best, if not the best, recording the work has ever received. It has wit, liveliness, lyricism, and above all the Ogdons capture the sassy Latin temperament of these works with idiomatic flair and great aplomb (Mrs. Ogdon plays the principal part here). Jamaican Rhumba by Arthur Benjamin, the second piece in this program, is equally groovy. The remainder of the program is also extremely impressive: the Dvorak Slavonic Dances and Brahms Hungarian Dances really have some kick in their step, the Stravinsky Circus Polka is suitably clunky, and the slower pieces (Hess’ transcription of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Mary Howe’s transcription of Sheep May Safely Graze) full of warmth and amiability. If I have only one reservation, it concerns the performance of Ogdon’s transcription of Khachaturian’s ever popular Sabre Dance, which just sounds too cautious to excite (the transcription itself is fine however).
In sum, an imaginative and satisfying program of some lovely two-piano works, captured in clear and present sound; that is, when it was new. Unfortunately now it sounds like an old LP, cracks, clicks and all. Too bad nobody, not even EDC née PDO themselves, can be bothered to remedy the situation, which is precisely why some company ought to re-release this pleasant issue for posterity.
- Album name: Music for Two Pianos
- Performers: John Ogdon; Brenda Lucas Ogdon (pianos)
- Label: IMP MCD 11
- Sonics: Stereo DDD
- Total playing time: 61:44