John Field, classical music composer

John Field image

John Field

Biography

Ireland's greatest contribution to the Romantic era, composer John Field was born in Dublin in 1782. His family was quite musical: his father, Robert Field, earned a living as a violinist in Dublin theaters and his grandfather, also named John Field, was a professional organist. With the latter, Field had his first piano lessons. Later he studied with Tommaso Giordani. In March 1792, he made his first appearance as a performer in Dublin, a performance which was well-received. By the end of the following year, Field's family had moved to London. In the English capital, young Field began his studies with Muzio Clementi, an apprenticeship likely secured through Giordani.

Under Clementi's tutelage, Field rose to become an in-demand performer in London. His concerts were applauded by critics and musicians alike. Clementi also published his pupil's first compositions in 1795. Field's first significant work, his Piano Concerto No. 1, was premiered in London on February 7th, 1799 with the composer himself as soloist. In 1801, Clementi published (and was also the dedicatee of) three piano sonatas by Field, the only examples of conventional Classical works in Field's output.

In the summer of 1802, master and pupil left London travelling to several of Europe's major cities. Arriving first in Paris, they then travelled on to Vienna. While in Vienna, Field briefly took counterpoint lessons from Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. By early winter, Clementi and Field had arrived in St. Petersburg. Field was captivated by the artistic atmosphere of the city and wished to stay. Though, it is possible that St. Petersburg was also his first real chance to escape from underneath the shadow of his master and begin his own independent career. In June 1803, Clementi left St. Petersburg but not without setting up a teaching position for his pupil. Furthermore, Clementi went so far as to "appoint" Field as his deputy so that he could receive high fees from the position.

Following Clementi's departure, Field took up an active schedule of performing. Consequently, nearly all the publications of his music during his first years in Russia were reprints of older works. However, around 1808, he began to actively compose again, establishing a unique personal style that came to hold a significant influence over piano music of the Romantic period. Characteristic of this style are his many nocturnes, a genre that Field pioneered and set the table for the various forms of character pieces for piano that evolved over the coming decades and perfected at the hands Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms. Field's nocturnes were immensely influential on Frédéric Chopin, who was largely responsible for expanding and popularizing the nocturne.

By the mid-1820s, Field's health began to deteriorate at least somewhat in part to his extravagant lifestyle. Suffering from cancer, he returned to London in September 1831 for medical treatment. He remained in England for an extended time and while there met Felix Mendelssohn and Ignaz Moscheles. Leaving England, he once again undertook a concert tour of European cities but inevitably ended up in a hospital in Naples for nine months. Eventually returning to Russia, he gave his last concert in March 1836. Nearly a year later, on January 23rd, 1837, Field died from pneumonia.


Composer Title Date Action
John Field Nocturne No.4 in A major 09/26/2010 Play Add to playlist
John Field Nocturne No.1 in E-flat Major 12/06/2012 Play Add to playlist