Amy Beach

American composer and pianist (1867, Henniker, New Hampshire – 1944, New York)

Little-known figure in the 20th century's musical landscape, Amy Beach nonetheless marked the history of American music as one of the first American female composers.

As a descendant from early settlers in New England, Amy Cheney - her maiden name - studied piano and harmony in a private school in Boston. She made her concert debut as a professional pianist in 1883 interpreting one of Ignaz Moscheles' concertos. In 1885, at only age 18, she married Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a surgeon from Boston who was 25 years older than her. Leaving aside her performing career, she dived into composition under the name of Amy Beach. After composing a few works mainly for piano, she quickly embarked on an ambitious project: a Mass which was then performed by the Handel and Haydn Society orchestra in 1892. Amy Beach was he first female composer to be performed by this orchestra. After her husband’s death in 1910, she actively resumed her career as a concert pianist, and went on a long tour of Europe until 1914,  when she returned to the United States to settle in New York.

Amy Beach composed several pieces for many genres: chamber music, concerto, sonata, symphony and even opera. She also created a number of melodies for voice and piano in the Romantic style.

5 landmark dates in the life of Amy Beach:

1883: Made her concert debut in Boston

1885: Married Dr. H.H.A. Beach

1892: First female composer to be performed by the Handel and Haydn Society orchestra

1896: Creation of her Gaelic Symphony inspired by Irish melodies. It was the first symphony ever composed and published by a female American composer

1914: Settled permanently in New York after a tour in Europe

6 key works by Amy Beach:

1890: Grand Mass, chorus and orchestra, op. 5

1897:Gaelic Symphony in E-Minor, Op. 32

1907: Piano quintet in F# minor, Op. 67

1923: Peter Pan, female chorus and piano op. 101

1926: Tyrolean waltz-fantasy op. 116

1932: Cabildo, chamber opera in one act for soloists, choir, violin, cello and piano, op. 149