Field: The Complete Nocturnes

Reviewed on Wed 13 Jul, 2016

In one nimbly graceful performance after another Elizabeth Joy Roe lifts Field’s music out of the long, twilit shadows of Chopin’s later assumption of the nocturne to make substantial and persuasive claims for their own manners and merits.

The Irish composer John Field’s Nocturnes have long been in want of a champion capable of giving full expression to their beguilingly soft contours and delectably lyrical, intoxicatingly melancholic attitudes. Collecting all 18 exercises in the form – one that Field created – on a single disc (albeit not for the first time, as has been claimed), Elizabeth Joy Roe is revealed as an intelligently expressive, deeply nuanced advocate. In one nimbly graceful performance after another she lifts Field’s music out of the long, twilit shadows of Chopin’s later assumption of the nocturne to make substantial and persuasive claims for their own manners and merits. There’s much to enjoy in playing of liquescently sensitive technical precision that exquisitely encapsulates Roe’s description of the nocturnes in her excellent booklet note as “half-waking dreams in a night without gloom”. The overall effect is intimate, intense and involving in equal measure, the recording beautifully framed in Suffolk’s Potton Hall. In a word: sublime.
–Michael Quinn