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The Piano Concertos
Concerto No. 1 in E flat major (1810) [20:20]
Concerto No. 2 in A flat major (1811) [35:23]
Concerto No. 5, 'L'Incendie par 1'orage' in C major
Concerto No. 3 in E flat major (1810) [32:32]
Concerto No. 6 in C major (1819) [31:23]
Concerto No. 4 in E flat major (1814) [34:43]
Concerto No. 7 in C major (1822) [29:05]
Divertissement No. 1 in E major (1810-16) [5.52]
Rondeau in A flat major (1810-16) [7.31]
Nocturne No. 16 in F major (1810-16) [5.18]
Quintette in A flat major (1810-16) [11.07]
Divertissement No. 2 in A major (1810-16) [9:17]
Pastorale. Andante (1810-16) [5.47]
Rondo. Allegro moderate (1810-16) [3.28]
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert
David Juritz (violin); Jennifer Godson (violin); Sarah-Jane
Bradley (viola); Julia Desbruslais (cello) (Quintette)
rec. Blackheath Concert Halls, 12-13 July 1994, 20 November,
1 December 1995, 20-21 March 1996, 25-26 September 1996.
CHAN10468(4)X [4 CDs: 55:45 +
60:06 + 65:08 + 68:14]
This is a superb set of piano concertos by John Field.
Field was born in Dublin, although his family moved to
London when he was 10. By then he was already showing great
talent as a pianist. He studied with the highly-esteemed
composer, teacher and publisher, Clementi.
This four-disc set from Chandos opens
with Field’s first and second concertos. His first concerto
was written at a very early age, and yet is already characterful
and original – an utterly charming, and hugely impressive
work. The second piano concerto was his most popular, with
its romantic – and typically long - first movement, and
its playful and lively finale. Schumann himself described
it as “divinely beautiful”, and one readily concurs.
The second disc opens with the fifth concerto – The
Blazing Storm. Field’s contemporary, Steibelt had
written a very successful piano concerto entitled The
Storm - a little bit of one-upmanship going on here,
possibly! As one might suspect, this is a very dramatic
work. It is also fairly progressive, with its use of
exotic percussion, such as bells and the tam-tam. This
disc also contains the well-crafted third concerto, which
Field dedicated to Clementi.
Disc three features concertos numbers
six – with its effervescent finale - and four. The seventh
concerto, which took Field ten years to complete, starts
the final disc. This concerto was a huge success in his
time – Chopin and Liszt were in the audience at premiere.
It is unusual in that it only has two movements – a dramatic
and atmospheric first movement, and a playful second movement
that is here played with a wonderful delicacy. The rest
of the last disc is given over to Field’s music for piano
and strings - Field played the viola in chamber groups.
The delightful Divertissement No. 1 is better known
in its version for piano called Twelve O’clock Rondo -
on account of the 12 ‘chimes’ at the end. Also included
are the Rondeau in A flat, Nocturne No. 16
- of which there is also a solo piano version - the polished Quintet,
and the Divertissement No. 2 whose first movement Andante
Pastorale became the seventh Nocturne.
This set shows Field – a musician who
had a major influence on the development of the virtuoso
pianist - to be a composer of the very highest quality – his
music is measured, elegant, interesting and extremely well-written.
He has a wonderful ability to combine dreamy romanticism
with classical refinement and the occasional hint at neo-baroque.
His piano parts – full of verve and panache – are idiosyncratic
and bear surprisingly little resemblance to Mozart or early
Beethoven, the bravura being more similar to that in later
composers. Nor is he as mannered or predictable as many
of his contemporaries – one is never quite sure what he’s
going to do next.
The performances are also outstanding. The London Mozart
Players, under the assured direction of Bamert, and soloist
O’Rourke, show a great affinity for this wonderful music,
and bring out a glorious sense of joy in lively and exciting
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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