Biography (Abridged)

Extensive biography coming soon!

Amy Beach   [née Amy Marcy Cheney]

(b. Henniker, NH, Sept. 5, 1867; d. New York, Dec. 27, 1944).

Known as the first female composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra (her “Gaelic” Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896), she was also one of the first U.S. composers to have her music be recognized in Europe, and THE first classical U.S. composer to achieve success without the benefit of European study.

A remarkable child prodigy, she made her public debut as a pianist in 1883, also the year of her first published compositions.  In 1885 she performed with the Boston  Symphony, but upon her marriage to the distinguished surgeon, Dr. H.H.A. Beach, she curtailed her performing in accordance with his wishes, and focused on composition.  She made one performance per year, with the proceeds donated to charity, and one of these performances was of her own piano concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1900.  Following the death of her husband in 1910, she resumed performing, and toured Europe to great acclaim, performing  her own music, until the onset of WWI.

Other works include her Mass in E-flat, Op. 5 (performed by the Handel and Haydn society in 1892), a Violin Sonata, Op.  34 (1896), a Piano Quintet, Op. 67 (1907), Theme and Variations for Flute and String Quartet, Op. 80 (1916), a String Quartet, Op. 89 (1929), the opera Cabildo, Op. 149 (1932), a Piano Trio, Op. 150 (1938), a wide range of choral music both sacred and secular, many songs, and a vast amount of music for piano (ranging from works for children to large pieces of the highest virtuosity).

Later in life she spent most summers composing at the MacDowell Colony, and the rest of the year based mostly in New York City and her Cape Cod home in Centerville, Massachusetts.  At her death she left more than 300 published works, and more of her music has been published in recent decades.  She declared the MacDowell Colony as her estate executor, and all earnings from her music aid in the operations and continuation of the Colony.

Biography: Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian : The Life and Work of an American Composer. By Adrienne Fried Block.  Oxford University Press, 1998.

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Celebrating the composer Amy Beach, 1867-1944