Rather as with Dowlandís Lachrymae, it makes little sense but
enervating listening to listen to Fieldís Nocturnes all in one
go, even (or especially) in fine performances. The Lachrymae
inhabit a continually sorrowing world of D major; Field sets
himself no such limitations, but frequently comes up against
an inability, whatever the key, to transcend a similarly melancholy
form. Alas for him, we have Chopinís example from 30 years later
to show us it can be done.
That Field was a prodigious melodist there
is ample demonstration: invidious to pick out a tune when they
are nearly all so delightful, but the ease of no.8 gives me
particular pleasure. Roberte Mamou shapes them with grace, and
is particularly adept at dynamic shading within a melody to
give it direction, especially towards its end.
With sensitive pedalling she is capable of
conjuring an appealing, bell-like sonority, as in the conclusion
to the Sixth and at the start of the Seventh: here, however,
the left hand touches in the upbeat figurations rather indistinctly.
And there lies my principal objection: the left hand is consistently
heavy, most noticeably in those nocturnes which already have
a dramatic and not merely accompanimental role, like nos.9 and
14. A fatal unevenness of accompanying figuration creeps into
no.11; elsewhere rubato is applied, never grotesquely, but quite
A pedestrian trill in the coda of no.14 harshly
reveals piano action at the top of the keyboard: in fact the
instrument often sounds more like a fortepiano. Partly this
can be attributed to Mamouís praiseworthy intentions to give
Field an appropriately intimate soundworld; partly to over-close
miking; and, Iím afraid, partly to Mamouís disinclination or
inability to make more of her material. John OíConor and Benjamin
Frith show it can be done but what is on offer here is all too
often superior salon select.
No one who already has OíConorís set on Telarc
will need to supplement their collection with Mamou, and for
those who have yet to discover Fieldís charm, there is no reason
for them to start with this disc.