Field – Nocturne No 5 in B flat Major

In the warm key of B flat major, a cantabile melody floats serenely above a fluid accompaniment, ornamented with sprays of filigree decoration; an orchestra provides a discreet background.

John Field Nocturne no 5The music is perhaps better known as Field’s fifth Nocturne, which started life as a Serenade, gained an orchestral accompaniment to become the second movement of Field’s third Piano Concerto, and later was renamed as a Nocturne.

And here it is – courtesy IMSLP, in what seems to be the original edition .

The pulse should be felt in two beats per bar; the long phrases need a carefully sculpted line, with elegant tapering of phrase-ends. The chordal section demands balance and control, with a singing 5th finger in the RH.

John field, edited by Liszt

It was Liszt who was asked to edit, and to write an introduction to, the first comprehensive edition of the Nocturnes in 1839  – translated extracts from Liszt’s writings here – and the full edition here  ; another version on IMSLP seems much more heavily edited.  Learning No 5 from Field’s own clear, uncluttered score is the best option – and a good introduction to the Nocturne genre in general.

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