WORKS: Piano Music, Vol. 1: Nocturne No. 1. Nocturne No. 2; Nocturne No. 3; Nocturne No. 4; Nocturne No. 5; Nocturne No. 6; Nocturne No. 7′ Nocturne No. 8; Nocturne No. 9; Piano Sonatas Op. 1/1& 2
PERFORMER: Benjamin Frith (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550761
Although John Field’s Nocturnes have inevitably lived in the shadow cast by Chopin’s later exquisite masterpieces in the same genre, they exude a charm and easy elegance which make them well deserving of a sympathetic advocate.
In this first volume of his complete survey of Field’s piano works, Benjamin Frith plays the first nine Nocturnes, and intersperses them with his two earliest piano sonatas, published in 1801. Even though, while listening to these Nocturnes, one can’t help thinking that Field does often seem to drift from key to key without saying much musically, one would be hard pressed to find such pianistic refinement and delicacy of phrasing elsewhere. Frith captures the benign tranquillity of these miniatures beautifully, the gentle cantilena of his right hand underpinned by the rhythmic buoyancy and subtle pointing of his left hand. Listen to the delicately-spun thread of melody cradled by an undulating triplet bass movement in the Nocturne in C minor as an example of Frith’s keen sensitivity to balance and texture. Although ultimately one does crave a wider dynamic range than Frith generally allows in his playing, his sense of fun in Field’s wittier moments, such as the Rondo from the E flat Sonata, doesn’t elude him. Stephen Haylett