Composers Datebook®

Field the Claveciniste

John Field (1782-1837) Nocturne No. 2 in C Minor John O'Conor Telarc 80199

Composer's Datebook - Jan. 23, 2023


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January 23, 2023


On today’s date in 1837, the Dublin-born pianist and composer John Field breathed his last in Moscow at the age of 54.

Born in 1782 into musical family, Field soon moved to London to study with the Italian composer Muzio Clementi and became a sought-after concert artist at a very tender age.

Haydn heard the 13-year perform in London and was impressed. At age 16, Field premiered his own first Piano Concerto. Over the course of his life, John Field would meet, play for, and perform with many other famous composers of his day, including Beethoven, Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles, and Mendelsohn.

Field ended up in Saint Petersburg, where he published his own compositions and apparently lived rather extravagantly. It’s said he was so well-off that he could afford to turn down a lucrative appointment to the Russian court.

In Tolstoy’s famous novel WAR AND PEACE, the Countess Rostova even asks a pianist to play her favorite Field nocturne. And it’s quite likely that while in Russia, like most of the Russian nobility of the day, Field got by speaking French, not Russian.

It’s said that on his deathbed when asked what his religion was, Field replied with a French pun: "I am not a Calvinist, but a Claveciniste (French for a harpsichord player).

Music Played in Today's Program

John Field (1782-1837) Nocturne No. 2 in C Minor John O'Conor Telarc 80199

On This Day


  • 1752 - Italian composer Muzio Clementi, in Rome;

  • 1878 - English composer Rutland Boughton, in Aylesbury;


  • 1837 - Irish composer John Field, age 54, in Moscow (Julian date: Jan.11);

  • 1908 - American composer and pianist Edward MacDowell, age 47, in New York;

  • 1981 - American composer Samuel Barber, age 70, in New York;


  • 1724 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 73 ("Herr, wie du willst, so schicks mit mir") performed on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's first annual Sacred Cantata cycle in Leipzig (1723/24);

  • 1729 - Bach: Sacred Cantata No. 156 ("Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe") probably performed in Leipzig on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany as part of Bach's fourth annual Sacred Cantata cycle (to texts by Christian Friedrich Henrici, a.k.a. "Picander") during 1728/29;

  • 1895 - MacDowell: Suite No. 2 (":Indian"), at the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, by the Boston Symphony, with Emil Paur conducting; On the same program, MacDowell appeared as the soloist in his own Piano Concerto No. 1;

  • 1933 - Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 2, in Frankfurt, with Hans Robaud conducting and the composer as soloist;

  • 1936 - Chavez: "Sinfonia India," on a radio broadcast by the Columbia Symphony, conducted by the composer;

  • 1948 - Diamond: Symphony No. 4, by the Boston Symphony, Leonard Bernstein conducting;

  • 1963 - Peter Mennin: Symphony No. 7, by the Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell conducting;

  • 1973 - Elliott Carter: String Quartet No. 3, in New York City, by the Juilliard String Quartet; This work won the Pulitzer Prize for music in that year (This was Carter's second Pulitzer Prize);

  • 1999 - Thea Musgrave: "Three Women," in San Francisco, by the Women's Philharmonic, A. Hsu conducting;


  • 1894 - Czech composer Antonin Dvorák presents a concert of African-American choral music at Madison Square Concert Hall in New York, using an all-black choir, comprised chiefly of members of the St. Philip's Colored Choir; On the program was the premiere performance of Dvorák's own arrangement of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home," which featured vocal soloists Sissierette Jones and Harry T. Burleigh;

  • 1943 - Duke Ellington and his orchestra present their first concert at Carngie Hall in New York, presenting the "official" premiere of Ellington's "Black, Brown and Beige" Suite (This work had received its world premiere at a trial performance the preceding day at Rye High School in Rye, New York).