Born in 1937 in Mansfield, Ogdon's first serious piano study was at the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1945 with Iso Elinson. His career progressed in the United Kingdom during the 1950s as he won a number of prizes, culminating in 1962 with the coveted first prize in the Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition (shared with Vladimir Ashkenazy ), 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 including members of the Manchester New Music Group. He also gave many duet recitals with Brenda Lucas, whom he married in 1960.
Ogdon saw the act of composition as an indispensable part of his overall musical development which influenced his approach to performance. A man of profound intellect and fascinations, his sight-reading capacity was legendary, but it was in no way a substitute for preparation. His undemonstrative and economical keyboard manner belied a digital brilliance; this with an enormous dynamic range and control, and seemingly unlimited physical stamina enabled him to unleash torrents of virtuosity with ease, although always at the service of the music.
During the 1970s Ogdon 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. His death in 1989 at the age of 52 came only a few weeks after the release of the Sorabji recording, and robbed the musical world of one of the most remarkable figures in the history of piano playing.