1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Field, John

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FIELD, JOHN (1782–1837), English musical composer and pianist, was born at Dublin in 1782. He came of a musical family, his father being a violinist, and his grandfather the organist in one of the churches of Dublin. From the latter the boy received his first musical education. When a few years later the family settled in London, Field became the favourite pupil of the celebrated Clementi, whom he accompanied to Paris, and later, in 1802, on his great concert tour through France, Germany and Russia. Under the auspices of his master Field appeared in public in most of the great European capitals, especially in St Petersburg, and in that city he remained when Clementi returned to England. During his stay with the great pianist Field had to suffer many privations owing to Clementi’s all but unexampled parsimony; but when the latter left Russia his splendid connexion amongst the highest circles of the capital became Field’s inheritance. His marriage with a French lady of the name of Charpentier was anything but happy, and had soon to be dissolved. Field made frequent concert tours to the chief cities of Russia, and in 1820 settled permanently in Moscow. In 1831 he came to England for a short time, and for the next four years led a migratory life in France, Germany and Italy, exciting the admiration of amateurs wherever he appeared in public. In Naples he fell seriously ill, and lay several months in the hospital, till a Russian family discovered him and brought him back to Moscow. There he lingered for several years till his death on the 11th of January 1837. Field’s training and the cast of his genius were not of a kind to enable him to excel in the larger forms of instrumental music, and his seven concerti for the pianoforte are now forgotten. Neither do his quartets for strings and pianoforte hold their own by the side of those of the great masters. But his “nocturnes,” a form of music highly developed if not actually created by him, remain all but unrivalled for their tenderness and dreaminess of conception, combined with a continuous flow of beautiful melody. They were indeed Chopin’s models. Field’s execution on the pianoforte was nearly allied to the nature of his compositions, beauty and poetical charm of touch being one of the chief characteristics of his style. Moscheles, who heard Field in 1831, speaks of his “enchanting legato, his tenderness and elegance and his beautiful touch.”