Amy Beach

Composer: Amy Marcy Cheney Beach
Date of Birth: September 5, 1867
Date of Death:  December 27, 1944
Nationality: American
Period/Era/Style: 20th century
Contribution(s): Beach was an American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. Her “Gaelic” Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era. As a pianist, she was acclaimed for concerts she gave featuring her own music in the United States and in Germany.

Biography: Early years and musical education   |   Early career   |   Marriage   |   Rise to prominence   |   Chamber music   |   Widowhood, years in Europe   |   Return to America and later life

Compositions: Symphonic works   |   Choral works   |   Chamber music   |   Solo piano music   |   Songs

Writings: Beach was a musical intellectual who wrote for journals, newspapers, and other publications. She gave advice to young musicians and composers—especially female composers. From career to piano technique advice, Beach readily provided her opinions in articles such as, “To the Girl who Wants to Compose”, and “Emotion Versus Intellect in Music.” In 1915, she had written Music’s Ten Commandments as Given for Young Composers, which expressed many of her self-teaching principles.

Late 20th century and early 21st century revival and reception: Gaelic Symphony   |   Piano Concerto   |   Tributes and memorials

Music Examples:
Piano Concerto, Op.45 Symphony in E minor, Op.32 ‘Gaelic’ Romance for Piano and Violin, Op. 23
Dreaming, Op. 15, No. 3 Ballade, Op. 6 Theme & Variations, Op. 80

Her sacred choral works include a settings of the Te Deum first performed by the choir of men and boys at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston, St. Francis’s Canticle of the Sun first performed at St. Bartholomew’s in New York, and a dozen other pieces, which were extensively researched in the 1990s by Betty Buchanan, Musical Director of the Capitol Hill Choral Society in Washington, D.C.
Te Deum 3 Browning Songs, Op. 44, No. 1 3 Browning Songs, Op. 44, No. 2 3 Browning Songs, Op. 44, No. 3

She was most popular, however, for her songs. “The Year’s At the Spring” from Three Browning Songs, Op. 44 is perhaps Beach’s most well-known work. Despite the volume and popularity of the songs during her lifetime, no single-composer song collection of Beach’s works exists.

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