Ogdon Papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1179 JO
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      95 items Chiefly musical manuscript books written in biro and felt tip and much corrected. General state of preservation is reasonable, although some items require conservation work.

Scope and Content

Comprises sketches & complete works in MS by John Ogdon, almost entirely unpublished. Virtually every item has additional notes on covers eg. telephone numbers, memoranda, shopping lists, appointments, suggested programmes.

Also includes some writings, copies of works by modern British composers, and administrative materials.

Administrative / Biographical History

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.


Numbering and order allocated by Skye Atman when compiling an inventory of works prior to their (abortive) sale through Christie's/Sotheby's in 1991; the reason for this scheme of arrangement is unknown.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Brenda Lucas Ogdon in 1991.


Description by M Sarah Wickham with reference to A Hinton Ogdon John The New Grove Dictionary of Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed May 20 2003), http://www.grovemusic.com.

Other Finding Aids

Royal Northern College of Music Archive catalogue (CALM).

Alternative Form Available

Not known.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright Brenda Lucas Ogdon.

Appraisal Information

On preservation grounds, file covers have been discarded where they bear nothing more than the titles of their contents. Those with annotations, or which are large enough to contain oversize works have been retained.


None anticipated.

Related Material

Archive of the Royal Manchester College of Music.

Additional Information

The papers include some photocopies of works by Ogdon and by other composers; the location of the originals is not known.