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A Touch of Silk : A Dubliner with a roving eye and a gift for melody, John Field challenged some of Europe’s finest pianists to demand more of themselves and their music.
A Touch of Silk

John Field (1782-1837) was an Irish composer admired by both Chopin and Liszt, who may be considered the ‘father’ of the great piano tradition of Russia.

JOHN Field made his Dublin debut as a pianist aged ten, and a year later was whisked off to London and apprenticed to Muzio Clementi, building and demonstrating pianos in Clementi’s showrooms.

Following an accomplished performance of his own Piano Concerto in E flat in the King’s Theatre, London, when just sixteen, a glittering career beckoned.

In 1805 it took him to St Petersburg and then on to Moscow, where he settled. When not distracted by champagne, Havana cigars, and female company, Field excelled as a teacher, and the pianists of Russia and Western Europe flocked to him.

In an era of noisy display, they coveted the Irishman’s silken touch, and strove to emulate the way that he made a piano sing.

When declining health brought Field’s public career to a close in 1835, he had helped to change the musical taste of a generation; and composers from Chopin to Moussorgsky have kept us in his debt ever since.

Piano Concerto No. 1: Air Ecossais

The slow movement from Field’s Piano Concerto No. 1, entitled ‘Within a mile of Edinburgh town’. Played by Paolo Restani, with Marco Guidarini and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice.

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Picture: © P.g.champion, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
A small, square piano manufactured by Muzio Clementi’s London company in 1829.

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