LARRY ADLER, JOHN OGDON, BRENDA LUCAS
QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL, JUNE 2nd 1973
REVIEW by EDWARD GREENFIELD, THE OBSERVER, 1973
WHOEVER devised the unexpected duo of Larry Adler and John Ogdon was cunning in devising the right musical meeting points too. This was a Queen Elizabeth Hall recital which glorified not convention but pure musicianship, for a combination of Ravel (first half) and Gershwin (second extended half) freed both artists from all inhibition. It was a fun evening with each challenging the other in mastery.
Has anyone achieved stratospheric half-tones on the harmonica that caress the ears as Mr Adler’s do? His range of tone seemed richer than ever. When in lower registers he applied a strong vibrato, I started to think of crumhorns and things. Why not a David Munrow arrangement or two next time, with medieval music alongside the moderns?
John Ogdon in some ways had the tougher assignment, performing in every single item, from Ravel’s Sonatine and Gaspard de la Nuit (sounding as diaphanous as I have ever heard them) through two and a half hours to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with Brenda Lucas lending assistance in Variations on “I Got Rhythm” and the notorious Ravel Bolero. This last was a tour de force with Adler’s harmonica somehow making up for the instrumentation which in the original takes the place of musical argument.
Looking more than ever like an amiable hobbit shambling on to the platform, Ogdon regularly astounds you with his extreme delicacy of touch. Here, in his happiest mood, he even made the many arrangements of orchestral texture sound thoroughly pianistic. It was odd but completely convincing to find in the slow movement of the Gershwin Piano Concerto, Ogdon in the orchestra’s rôle, Adler in the piano’s.
Over and over again the claims of Gershwin as one of the greatest of melodists were overwhelmingly pressed home, best of all in an Adler arrangement of items from “Porgy and Bess.” In “Bless, you is my woman now,” Adler’s harmonica astonishingly seemed to express even more than the human voice can.