A profile of pianist, and influential composer John Field.

John Field (1782-1837) was born into a musical family in Golden Lane Dublin. He made his musical debut at the age of ten.

John Field was apprenticed to the London-based Italian-born virtuoso pianist, composer and teacher Muzio Clementi, who also ran a highly successful piano and music publication business. As a teenager John Field was also working for Clementi as a pianist, demonstrating the latter's pianos across Europe.

The two reached Saint Petersburg during the era of Catherine the Great. John Field settled there in 1803, performing throughout the city and becoming a hugely popular pianist. He also taught piano, but became known for his erratic ways and often capricious personality, leading one of his peers to remark that,

Nothing can afford a more glaring contrast than a Field nocturne and Field's manners.

Not a man naturally given to teaching he made exceptions for students whom he liked, in particular Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804-1857) who went on to become the founder of the Russian nationalist school of music and an internationally recognised composer. Glinka remained an admirer throughout his life, describing his playing as,

At once sweet and strong, and characterised by admirable precision…

In 1822 John Field moved Moscow and was as successful there as he had been in Saint Petersburg. Well-known for his hospitality and generosity towards the poor, his lifestyle had unfortunately begun to catch up with him, and his health began to fail.

John Field developed the technique of legato playing, where notes follow one another smoothly. This is perhaps his most notable legacy.

John Field really developed the legato technique, which set the style for Chopin, and all those who were to come after him.

This episode of 'Irish Men And Irish Women' was broadcast on 24 November 1976. The presenter is Ronnie Drew. John Field is portrayed by Des Nealon and Muzio Clementi by Chris Curran.