If you aren't familiar with Irish composer John Field (1782-1837), Naxos makes it easy to become acquainted with him. Pianist Benjamin Frith, together with conductor David Haslam and the Northern Sinfonia, have issued almost all of Field's piano concertos, six of seven I believe, in winning performances and pretty good Naxos sound.
I reviewed the First and Third Concertos from Frith several years before this issue and found them entirely fetching; needless to say, I found this newer, 2002 release of the Fifth and Sixth Concertos equally fine. Of course, if you are new to the man's work, I'd advise starting with No. 1 because it remains his most felicitous (and probably most popular) concerto. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy in Nos. 5 and 6 as well. The Fifth is especially noteworthy for its depiction of a fire and storm, perhaps some allusion to the war of 1812; it's unclear. I know, however, I had a marginal preference for the greater poetic invention of No. 6. Both concertos sound like pieces from the late Romantic period, but, in fact, they date from 1817 and 1819 respectively, early Romantic.
The Naxos sound (recorded in 1997, and I don't know why it took them so long to get the disc to market) appears full, warm, and robust when played at a volume approximate to what one might hear from a moderate distance at a live concert. Played back softly, though, the reproduction might disappoint you, because it can sound a bit dull and soggy. The piano seems generally well integrated into the acoustic field, and the occasional loud orchestral outburst will testify to the disc's reasonably wide dynamic range.
Field was once the toast of Europe, but admiration for his work fell off over time. Fortunately, this Naxos series and several Chandos releases among others have helped revive his popularity. It's about time.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: