John Field (composer)

John Field (composer)

John Field (26 July 1782 – 23 January 1837) was an Irish composer and pianist. He is best known for being the first composer to write nocturnes.


Field was born in Dublin in 1782, the eldest son of Protestant Irish parents. His father, Robert Field, earned his living by playing the violin in Dublin theatres. Field first studied the piano under his grandfather (also named John Field), who was a professional organist, and later under Tommaso Giordani. He made his debut at the age of nine, a performance that was well-received, on 24 March 1792 in Dublin ["Between perfect technique and soulful playing: John Field's piano concertos", by Regula Rapp, in booklet edited by Jens Schünemeyer, produced by Teldec and DeutschlandRadio, Cologne, 1998] . His family moved to Bath in 1793, and later that same year went to London. Field's father there secured for him an apprenticeship with the pianist and piano manufacturer Muzio Clementi. He attracted favourable comment from Joseph Haydn for his performances. By the time he was seventeen, Field had already premiered his First Piano Concerto (he wrote seven of them); it was one of the last acts of his apprenticeship. He was lionized as a performer for several years before turning to composition, beginning with his first set of piano sonatas, dedicated to Clementi, published in 1801.

In 1801 Field accompanied Clementi on a tour of Paris and Vienna (where he studied briefly with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger). When Clementi moved to Russia, Field followed him there, continuing his employment demonstrating his pianos. Field established his own concert career in Russia, and by 1806 was dividing his time between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, settling in the latter city after his marriage to a French woman in a Catholic ceremony in 1810. His teaching proved lucrative, and his lifestyle became somewhat extravagant; he was something of a "bon vivant", and fathered an illegitimate son.

By 1831 his health deteriorated, and suffering from a painful cancer of the rectum he travelled back to London for medical attention. After treatment he returned to Russia by way of France (where, after first hearing one of Franz Liszt's performances on the keyboard, he asked his neighbour, "Does he bite?") and Italy, spending nine months in a hospital in Naples. Helped by a Russian aristocratic family, he returned to Moscow in 1835, and gave three concerts in Vienna en route, as a guest of Carl Czerny. In Moscow, he composed his last few nocturnes in the sixteen months remaining to him.

He died in Moscow two years later. Because Field's faith was unclear -- his parents were nominally Protestant, but he had had a Catholic wedding -- there is a legend that when he was questioned on his deathbed by a priest his friends had procured about which religion he practiced, he said, "I am a clavicist" ("Je suis claveciste").Fact|date=December 2007


Field is best remembered for his eighteen nocturnes which are single movement impromptu compositions for piano that maintain a single mood throughout. He is also the founder of the piano nocturne. The first three of these date from 1812. These pieces are further notable for their influence on Frédéric Chopin, who went on to write 21 nocturnes himself.

Works list

H 1 Variations for piano on "Fal Lal La" in A major
H 2 Rondo "Favorite Hornpipe" for piano in A major
H 3 Rondo "Go the devil" for piano in C major
H 4 Variations for piano on "Since then I'm doom'd" in C major
H 5 Rondo "Slave, bear the sparkling goblet" for piano (lost)
H 6 Rondo "The two slaves dances" for piano in G major
H 7 Variations for piano on "Logie of Buchan" in C major
H 8 Piano Sonata Op. 1 No. 1 in E flat major
H 8 Piano Sonata Op. 1 No. 2 in A major
H 8 Piano Sonata Op. 1 No. 3 in C minor
H 9 Pleyel's Concertante for piano, violin & cello in F major
H 10 Air russe varié for piano 4 hands in A minor
H 11 Andante for piano 4 hands in C minor
H 12 Danse des ours for piano 4 hands in E flat major
H 13 Divertissement No. 1 for piano in E major
H 13 Nocturne for piano (12) in E major
H 14 Divertissement No. 2 for piano in A major
H 14 Nocturne for piano (7) in A major
H 15 Fantasia for piano Op. 3 on "Guardami un poco" in A major
H 16 Marche triomphale for piano in E flat major
H 17 Piano Sonata in B flat major
H 18 Rondeau for piano in A flat major
H 18 Waltz for piano in A flat major
H 19 Grande valse for piano 4 hands in A major
H 20 Variations for piano on "Vive Henry IV" in A minor
H 21 Polonaise for piano in E flat major
H 22 Variations for piano on "Kamarinskaya" in B flat major
H 23 Rondo "Speed the Plough" for piano in B major
H 24 Nocturne for piano No. 1 in E flat major
H 25 Nocturne for piano No. 2 in C minor
H 26 Nocturne for piano No. 3 in A flat major
H 27 Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major (1799)
H 27 Rondo from Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major
H 27 Variations for piano on "Within a mile" in B flat major
H 28 Piano Concerto No. 4 in E flat major (1814, revised 1819)
H 28 Rondo from Piano Concerto No. 4 in E flat major
H 29 Rondo from Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major
H 30 Nocturne for piano No. 9 (8) in E flat major
H 31 Piano Concerto No. 2 in A flat major (1811)
H 31 Poco adagio from Piano Concerto No. 2 in E flat major
H 31 Rondo from Piano Concerto No. 2 in A flat major
H 32 Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major (1811)
H 33 Exercice modulé sur tous les tons majeurs et mineurs for piano
H 34 Piano Quintet in A flat major
H 35 Fantasia for piano on "Ah! quel dommage" in G major
H 36 Nocturne for piano No. 4 in A major
H 37 Nocturne for piano No. 5 in B flat major
H 38 Rondo for piano in A major
H 39 Piano Concerto No. 5 in C major "L'incendie par l'orage" (1817)
H 39 Rondo from Piano Concerto No. 5 in C major
H 40 Nocturne for piano No. 6 in F major
H 41 Variations for piano on a Russian folksong in D minor
H 42 6 Dances for piano
H 43 Rondo for piano 4 hands in G major
H 44 Exercice nouveau No. 1 for piano in C major
H 45 Nocturne for piano No. 7 (13) in C major
H 46 Nocturne for piano No. 8 (9) in E minor
H 47 The Maid of Valdarno (lost)
H 48 Exercice nouveau No. 2 for piano in C major
H 49 Piano Concerto No. 6 in C major (1819, revised 1820)
H 49 Rondo from Piano Concerto No. 6 in C major
H 50 2 Songs
H 51 Sehnsuchts-Walzer for piano in E major
H 52 Rondoletto for piano in E flat major
H 53 Rondo "Come again, come again" for piano in E major
H 54 Nocturne for piano No. 10 in E major
H 55 Nocturne for piano in C major "Le troubadour"
H 56 Nocturne for piano No. 11 in E flat major
H 57 Fantasia for piano on "We met" in G major
H 58 Nocturne for piano No. 12 (14) in G major
H 58 Piano Concerto No. 7 in C minor (1822, revised 1822-32)
H 59 Nocturne for piano No. 13 (15) in D minor
H 60 Nocturne for piano No. 14 (16) in C major
H 61 Nocturne for piano No. 15 (17) in C major
H 62 Nocturne for piano No. 16 (18) in F major
H 63 Nocturne for piano in B flat major
H 64 Andante inedit for piano in E flat major
H 65 Pastorale for piano (lost)
H 66 Nocturne for piano "Dernière pensée" (lost)
H 67 88 passages doigtés for piano (lost)
H deest Exercice for piano in A flat major
H deest Fantasia for piano on "Dans le jardin" in A minor
H deest Largo for piano in C minor
H deest Prelude for piano in C minor

Partial discography

There are now over 50 recordings [] devoted in part or in full to the music of John Field, including:
* "Nocturnes and Sonatas" - played by Benjamin Frith (1999) Naxos 8550761
* "Sonatas, Nocturnes" - played by John O'Conor (2002) Telarc 80290
* "Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2" - played by Mícéal O'Rourke with the London Mozart Players conducted by Matthias Bamert (1995) Chandos 9368
* "Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3"- played by John O'Conor accompanied by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras (1994) Telarc 80370


* Keith Anderson, notes for recording "Field: Piano Music, Vol. 1", Benjamin Frith (piano), Naxos 8.550761
* Track listing for CD "Field: Piano Music, Volume 2", Benjamin Frith (piano), Naxos 8.550762


External links

* [ John Field: The Irish Romantic (1782-1837)] (Dead Link)
* [ An article on Field originally published in "The Etude", 1915]

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