Jo Leach uses three period pianos in this collection of John Field's nocturnes.
The Irish composer John Field (1782 - 1837) 'invented' the nocturne and Chopin,
who enjoyed playing Field's nocturnes, made Nocturne a famous word.
I cannot claim that the Field nocturnes are great music ... nor can I say
that of his piano concertos either. It is pleasant enough music but, like
the piano music of Schubert, it is lacking in contrast and tension and is
far too derivative and repetitive.
However, the Field nocturnes are important, especially for we music teachers.
The charming No 4 in A is on the current syllabus for the Associated
Board's Grade 8. The other thing to say is that although they often sound
simple to play they can be difficult. Jo Leach succeeds in the interpretative
and continuity problems they present and often her playing is simply lovely
as in the gorgeous Nocturne No 5 in B flat of 1817.
My problem is that they all sound the same ... rhythmically at least. Perhaps
this is my fault for listening to them all at one hearing. The Nocturne
No 14 in C is very long, about 10½ minutes in length.
The pianos she uses are ideally suited to the music. Despite what one reviewer
wrote in The Gramophone, not all square pianos have pedals! This proves
my point that reviewers should be knowledgeable and be able to read music
and follow a score to make an analysis ... otherwise all he can do is merely
give an impression, and that is of little use to anyone.
Square pianos do not have 'soft' pedal. After about 1800 they did have sustaining
pedals. On this recital the pianos have sustaining pedals but on Jo leach's
recitl (ATHCd3) the haydn and Bach were played on pianos without pedals.
Jo Leach plays these nocturnes with a lot of thought, detail and love. There
is nothing cold or clinical about her playing.