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John Field


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John Field (1782–1837) was an Irish composer and pianist. He is best known for being the first musician to write nocturnes. Field marked a transition in classical music from an emphasis on technical virtuosity to lyrical expression, and paved way for composers like Chopin (of whom he was later quite critical).

Field was born in Dublin on 26th July 1782, the eldest son of Protestant Irish parents. His father, Robert Field, earned his living by playing the violin in Dublin theatres. Field first studied the piano under his grandfather (also named John Field), who was a professional organist, and later under Tommaso Giordani. He made his debut at the age of nine, a performance that was well-received, on 24th March 1792 in Dublin. His family moved to Bath in 1793, and later that same year went to London. Field’s father there secured for him an apprenticeship with the pianist and piano manufacturer Muzio Clementi. He attracted favourable comment from Joseph Haydn for his performances. By the time he was seventeen, Field had already premiered his first piano concerto (he wrote seven of them); it was one of the last acts of his apprenticeship. He was lionized as a performer for several years before turning to composition, beginning with his first set of piano sonatas, dedicated to Clementi, published in 1801.

In 1801 Field accompanied Clementi on a tour of Paris and Vienna (where he studied briefly with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger). When Clementi moved to Russia, Field followed him there, continuing his employment demonstrating his pianos. Field established his own concert career in Russia, and by 1806 was dividing his time between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, settling in the latter city after his marriage in 1810.


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