John Field

1782-1837 (“Drunken John”; b. 26 July, Dublin, taught music by his f., a violinist in the Theatre Royal; studied under Tommaso Giordani; debut at 9; apprenticed to Muzio Clementi initially as pianoforte demonstrator and salesman, London, 1793; brought by Clementi to Paris in 1802, and later to Germany, Austria (Vienna), and St Petersberg; settled in Russia, but toured Europe as fashionable player, composer, and teacher for some 30 years, returning to London in 1832, where his E flat piano concerto given at a Philharmonic Society concert enjoyed great success; his personal keyboard style was subseq. expanded by Chopin, Schumann, Listz and others; 2 of his concertos were among the finest in the 19th c. repertoire; originator of the Piano Nocturne, of which he wrote 18 [var 20]; also seven concertos, four sonatas, and a number of shorter piecesreturned to Moscow in ill health after further visits to France and Italy; died in Russian, 11 Jan.; the form has dreamy melody decorated with ornate figuration over an arpeggiated harmonic bass; there is an engraved portrait by Carl Mayer, Nuremberg. BREF DIB ODNB

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John O’Connor, the Irish pianist, was honoured with the Chopin Medal on 11 Sept. 1992 in recognition of his ‘outstanding interpretation’ of the music of John Field, creator of the nocturne which was later perfected by Chopin. The presentation was made in Dublin by the Polish ambassador Mr Ernest Bryll. (Irish Times, 12 Sept. 1992).

Gerard Smyth, The Mirror Tent (Dublin: Dedalus Press 2007), contains a poem that recalls John Field, ‘born beneath the cathedral bells, / he heard their morning and evening Pathétique’; others recall Chopin (“Visiting Chopin's Heart”: ‘the rest of Chopin lies in Père Lachaise’), et al.

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Connections: Theo Dorgan writes a poem on the subject of Field’s ‘Nocturne’ piano, which is held in the house of Pushkin in St. Petersburg. Fergal Keane makes Field’s Nocturne No. 1 his first choice on “Passions” on BBC3 (Sun., 3 July 2005), remarking on the characteristic restraint; he first heard the piece played on gramaphone by is mother at home.

Portrait of John Field., ill. in Grove’s Dict. of Musicians, vol. I, pl.XVI; see Anne Crookshank, ed., Irish Portrait Exhibition (Ulster Mus. 1965)

John Field Rd., presumably the vicinity of his birth, adj. to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with Bride St. and Golden Lane in Whitefriar’s Parish, was redeveloped under “Face Lift ’99” - a section of rebuilt corporation houses in Dublin 8, is also near (adj. to Werburgh St.).

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