“Nocturnes of John Field”
Some definitions of nocturne:
Dreamy musical piece
Short lyric piece
A composition of a pensive, melancholy character
Slow, soft and sentimental
Quiet, lyrical character
Suggesting night and usually quiet and meditative
Dreamy, pensive composition for the piano
A reflective character piece
I know these piano nocturnes of John Field intimately, and even did a series of paintings in the year 2000 based on the complete set. I referred to the paintings then as “little pictures of the night”, but Field didn’t compose his nocturnes with any programme in mind. If he did, he never told anyone.
An Irishman – born Golden Lane, Dublin; living in Russia from 1803 – he was considered to be one of the greatest pianists of the first four decades of the nineteenth century. Ironically, he should have been known there as “The father of Russian music”, such was his influence, but that title went to the Russian-born, Glinka, one of his pupils. In the delicate nocturnes he anticipated Chopin in his style, technique and spirit but, as David Branson1 pointed out, Chopin was influenced by a myriad of techniques innovated by Field, present not only in the nocturnes, but also in his piano concertos and elsewhere.