The Piano Music of John Field

The Piano Music of John Field

by Richard BurnettRichard Burnett


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England's Richard Burnett, both a performer and a collector of old keyboard instruments, combined his interests on several LPs that have recently been reissued on the Saydisc label's consistently offbeat Amon Ra series. Here he deploys four different pianos of the early nineteenth century in service of the music of John Field -- among the most celebrated pianist/composers of his time, and one admired and emulated by both Chopin and Schumann. Born in Ireland, Field started his career as a piano salesman in London demonstrating the products of composer and piano maker Muzio Clementi. Field is best known for his nocturnes, works that inspired Chopin's efforts in the same genre. Here, the listener is given an uncommonly close look at the relationship between technology and expressive culture; many of the nocturnes seem designed to display sonorities that were newly available on the piano as it evolved. In Burnett's hands, Field's music seems structured so as to reach its most piquant point with a passage composed of reverberant tones -- hear how he handles the final minutes of the "Grand Pastorale in E major" (track 11), for instance. What really delights in Burnett's recordings, however, is that he manages to make them more than just a demonstration of piano history. Here he finds some really unusual music by Field, written after the composer moved to Russia later in life (he died there in 1837). The attempt to infuse his music with Russian flavor honed Field's instinct for the structural use of pianistic textures. His music is never complicated, but the "Variations in B flat on a Russian Air, Kamarinskaya," track 15, is entirely distinctive. Three of the Russian pieces are four-hand works intended for amateurs, and in fact a good deal of the music on this album deserves to be better known among students, who might well find Field's music even more idiomatic and colorful than listeners do. For anyone at all, this album is likely to bring Field's music more fully alive than modern interpretations suffused with a retrospective glow coming from Chopin.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/11/2011
Label: Saydisc
UPC: 5013133304827
catalogNumber: 48
Rank: 237230


  1. Nocturne No.1, for piano in E flat major, H. 24
  2. Nocturne No.5, for piano in B flat major, H. 37
  3. Piano Sonata No.1 in E flat major, Op. 1/1, H. 8/1
  4. Nocturne No.6, for piano in F major, H. 40
  5. Nocturne No.4, for piano in A major, H. 36
  6. Nocturne No.2, for piano in C minor, H. 25
  7. Nocturne No.3, for piano in A flat major, H. 26
  8. Nocturne No.11, for piano in E flat major, H. 56
  9. Nocturne No.12, for piano in G major, H. 58
  10. Grand Pastorale, for piano & orchestra, in E major, H. 54 (orch. part lost)
  11. Air russe varié (Variations on A Russian Air), for piano, 4 hands in A minor, H. 10
  12. La danse des ours, for piano, 4 hands, H. 12 (2nd part by W. Aumann)
  13. Andante, for piano, 4 hands in C minor, H. 11
  14. Variations on "Kamarinskaya" ("on a Russian air"), for piano in B flat major, H. 22
  15. Chanson russe variée (Variations on a Russian Song), for piano in D minor, H. 41
  16. Nocturne No.14, for piano in C major, H. 60

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