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2004-02-24 Famous concert pianist was one of the first romantics

When we talk of Irish Music, what usually springs to mind is our vast traditional music reservoir. We tend to forget that Ireland has produced many great achievers in the realm of Classical music. Just as most of the giants of 19th and 20th century English literature are in fact Irish, many of the great figures of British music of the same period were also Irish, men such as Balfe, Wallace, Hamilton Harty and Stanford.
When we talk of Irish Music, what usually springs to mind is our vast traditional music reservoir. We tend to forget that Ireland has produced many great achievers in the realm of Classical music. Just as most of the giants of 19th and 20th century English literature are in fact Irish, many of the great figures of British music of the same period were also Irish, men such as Balfe, Wallace, Hamilton Harty and Stanford.

 

In the 18th century, when Dublin was one of the most fashionable European capitals, the Irish music and theatre scene (the age of Thomas Moore) attracted some of the worlds finest. Composers such as Geminiani based themselves here, and more famously, Handel premiered his Messiah in Dublins Fishamble Street in the 1740s.


In 1782, Mr and Mrs Robert Fields first son was born in Dublin and baptised at St Warburgs Church near Christchurch. John Field, the eldest of seven children, was like his father had been, a child prodigy. Robert Field was a professional violinist and his father an organist. The two men recognised Johns musical gifts at an early age and began to teach him, with added guidance from Giordani. In 1791, the most famous child prodigy of them all  Mozart  died at the age of 35. In the same year, the 9 year-old by now much-admired Master Field began to make his début recitals. In 1793, the relatively poor Field family emigrated to England and John, aged only 11, became an apprentice to the famous, though difficult Clementi. At 12, John gave his first London recitals. In 1798 while there was a rebellion in his native land, Field premiered his First Piano Concerto. After some recital visits to Paris and Vienna, Clementi and Field settled in St Petersburg in 1803. This acted as a base for the two virtuosi to tour Europe, but soon Field, despite being not very flambuoyant as a performer, had become the bigger star. Clementi still took his generous commission (managers, eh?), but after a while the master left and the pupil remained. Thanks to a generous patron, sizeable fees and celebrity status, John Field and his servants lived a luxurious lifestyle. As a popular teacher, he attracted many Russian lady pianists, as well as some more famous pupils like one of the fathers of Russian Nationalist Music  Glinka. Due to Fields wealth from teaching and performing, as well as his laziness and excessive drinking, Fields output was modest, comprising piano music and some chamber music. Around this time his Second Piano Concerto was showcased. On first hearing the piece, many would claim it is in the style of Chopin, except that when it was composed Chopin was not even born! It is for this link to Chopin that John Field has become most famous. He was the creator of the Nocturne. A Nocturne is any piece of music suggesting the many moods and romantic beauty of the night - intimate, sentimental, poetic and graceful pieces, often with embellished melodies. In 1814, Field composed the first of his 20 Nocturnes. Chopin went on to adopt the style invented by the Irishman, carrying it to a sublime level, as in his Nocturne in Eb. The Irish pianists Micheál ORourke and John OConor have recorded much of Fields music, and one of Fields best loved is his No.5 in Bb.