Field: Piano Concerto No. 5; Piano Concerto No. 6

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WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 5; Piano Concerto No. 6
PERFORMER: Benjamin Frith (piano); Northern Sinfonia/David Haslam
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554221
Apart from a dramatic storm in No. 5, these concertos are characteristically urbane and elegant, juxtaposing glittering keyboard bravura with Field’s distinctive vein of lyrical poetry. Both first movements, especially the march-like Allegro moderato of No. 6, are leisurely and discursive to a fault, drawing out their charming material to implausible lengths. But there are many incidental pleasures both here and in the elegantly playful finales. Most memorable of all, perhaps, is the soulful, richly ornamented slow movement of No. 6 which Field pilfered from one of his solo nocturnes. Occasionally in the opening movements Benjamin Frith can draw out the lyrical music to dangerous lengths. But this cavil aside, his playing is exemplary: pellucid, aristocratic, scintillating, with a delicacy and grace of nuance that by all accounts marked Field’s own playing. The Northern Sinfonia, with limited opportunities, is crisp and confident in support – a word, too, for the beautifully turned clarinet solos in the slow movement of No. 5. There is strong competition in both concertos from Field’s countrymen Míceál O’Rourke (Chandos) and John O’Conor (Onyx). But even without its huge price advantage, this new disc can easily hold its own in such company. Richard Wigmore