Thursday, 10 April 2014

Piece of the day: Piano Sonata no. 1 by John Field

Today I want to share a piece by British composer John Field (1782 - 1837).

The Irish composer John Field

He is best known for his nocturnes, which greatly influenced the work of Chopin, Liszt, Brahms and Schumann among others. These expressive works (especially for their time) are a bedrock of romantic piano music. His nocturne no. 5 in B flat major was the first piece of this sort that I learnt, before moving on to Chopin.

However in his piano sonata no. 1 (op. 1), we see a glimmer of what came before him. This lighthearted, almost Mozartian sonata was dedicated to his teacher and friend Muzio Clementi and reflects his compositional style with a simplistic salon fa├žade, favoured by Chopin and even Schumann.

The first movement glides along in the pacific key of E flat major, and then reaches an interesting development section, where the melody is played in the tonic minor, and turbulent arpeggios in the left hand accompany an angry melody in the right hand (scandalised is the word I like to use for these passages). These developments are a typical feature of Field's music. 

After a neat resolution, the second movement (and last, interestingly) proves a jolly, but refined swagger. It's bouncy, it's fresh, it's simple. I like that.

Benjamin Firth plays this wonderfully along with Field's other works. I would really urge you to listen to his interpretation (at this point I would also urge you to get Spotify, if you haven't already, as you can listen to all of these albums I'm recommending for free). I can not recommend any other recordings due to unsatisfactory technique or interpretation (that wasn't meant to be so snobbish...).

Do tell me what you think!