took employment in the showrooms of Muzio Clementi's piano
warehouse. He undertook a seven-year apprenticeship to Clementi
and in 1793 made his first London appearance in a benefit concert
playing a piece described as "a lesson on the new grand piano
In his final year of apprenticeship Field took the bold step of
presenting his First piano concerto at a concert held at
the King's Theatre early in 1799. He basked in two seasons of great popularity, in the second year publishing
his important Piano sonatas. Opus 1, dedicated to Clenienti
in recognition of his guidance over the years. In 1802 Clementi
reciprocated by taking Field on a continental tour starting in
Paris and ending in St Petersburg.
Field decided to remain in Russia, and lived under the
patronage of an important Russian general, Marklovsky. Within a
year he made his concert debut at the Philharmonic Hall in St
Petersburg. He became much in demand for teaching, concerts, and
private performances in fashionable homes. Fie toured Russia,
making his Moscow debut in 1806, and eventually settled on
dividing his existence between St Petersburg and Moscow. From
Field's early days in Russia date The bear dance and Variations on a Russian air. both piano duets. The latter is
based on a Russian folk tune and is a forerunner of the
nationalistic works of Glinka and Balakirev.
Field flourished as a piano virtuoso of rare talent. Fie wrote
seven piano concertos, but his most important compositions are his
Nocturnes, a form he developed to illustrate the expressive
side of his playing that countered his sheer technical brilliance.
The interpretive style he forged influenced Romantic piano
composers such as Chopin and Liszt. He published 19 Nocturnes
between 1812 and 1836, all characterized by a mood of
melancholy and the use of widely spaced broken chords in the left
hand while the right hand carries the melody.
While living in St Petersburg Field married one of his pupils,
Adelaide, while also keeping a French mistress; both women bore
him sons. Adelaide left him, however, and Field's creative work
seriously diminished as alcoholism gripped him. In 1831 he
returned to London for cancer treatment. He gave concert
performances m England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy,
but these were poor shadows of his performances m Russia. In
Naples his health deteriorated and for most of 1834 he lay in
hospital until rescued by a Russian benefactor. He returned to
Moscow, where he worked intermittently until his death in 1837.