Friday, November 10, 2017

John Field (1782-1837)

No. 264 of the ongoing  ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast264



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Before Liszt, before Chopin, there was John Field, probably Ireland’s most notable export before Guinness Stout. Field was very highly regarded by his contemporaries and his playing and compositions influenced many major composers, including Chopin, Liszt, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann.

John Field was born in Dublin into a musical family, and received his early education there, in particular with the immigrant Tommaso Giordani. The Fields soon moved to London, where Field studied under Muzio Clementi. Under his tutelage, Field quickly became a famous and sought-after concert pianist. Together, master and pupil visited Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg.

Ambiguity surrounds Field's decision to remain in Russia from 1802 onwards, but it is likely that Field acted as a sales representative for the Clementi Pianos. Although little is known of Field in Russia, he undoubtedly contributed substantially to concerts and teaching, and to the development of the Russian piano school.

Field is best known as the instigator of the nocturne – 18 in total plus associated pieces such as Andante inedit, H 64. These works were some of the most influential music of the early Romantic period: they do not adhere to a strict formal scheme (such as the sonata form), and they create a mood without text or programme. A handful of these open today’s podcast.

Similarly influential were Field's early piano concertos, which occupy a central place in the development of the genre in the 19th century. One interesting trait of his piano concertos is their limited choice of keys: they all use either E-flat major or C major at some point (or both, in the last concerto's case). Composers such as Hummel, Kalkbrenner and Moscheles were influenced by these works, which are particularly notable for their central movements, frequently nocturne-like. I programmed his concerto no. 5 in today’s montage.

To close, I included an homage to Field by his fellow Irish countryman Hamilton Harty. Harty's career was mostly as a conductor, notably of the Halle Orchestra of Manchester, during which time he made it one of the best orchestras in Europe, and was part of the early rediscovery and promotion of Baroque music by creating orchestrations of Handel's music that were popular until the Period Instrument movement. Harty orchestrated some of Field's pieces to create a "John Field Suite" to promote the composer who had been mostly forgotten. Harty himself, however was an Edwardian composer who followed the example of contemporaries like Holst and Vaughan Williams and incorporated folk music into these pieces to make them practically the only Irish sounding works in the entire Classsical repertoire.


I think you will love this music too!