Born: 5 Sep 1867
Died: 27 Dec 1944
Amy Marcy Cheney Beach was an American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. Most of her compositions and performances were under the name Mrs. H. H. A. Beach. Amy Beach was a child prodigy, she began formal piano lessons with her mother at the age of six, and a year later started giving public recitals. Beach made her professional debut in Boston in 1883, playing Chopin Rondo in E-flat and Moscheles’s G minor Concerto; shortly after she appeared as a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Following her marriage in 1885 to Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach – a Boston surgeon 24 years older than she – she agreed to limit performances to two public recitals a year, with profits donated to charity. Following her husband's wishes, she devoted herself to composition. Her first major success was the Mass in E-flat major, which was performed in 1892 by the Handel and Haydn Society. The well-received performance of the Mass moved Beach into the rank of America's foremost composers. She composed the Jubilate for the dedication of the Woman's Building at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. After her husband died in 1910, Beach toured Europe for three years as a pianist, playing her own compositions. She was determined to establish a reputation there as both a performer and composer. She returned to America in 1914, where she spent time at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. In 1915, she wrote Ten Commandments for Young Composers, which expressed many of her self-teaching principles. Beach later moved to New York, where she became the virtual composer-in-residence at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, New York. She used her status as the top female American composer to further the careers of young musicians; serving as leader of several organizations, including the Society of American Women Composers as its first president. Heart disease led to Beach's retirement in 1940 and her death in New York City in 1944. Beach's compositions include the Mass in E-flat major (1892), the Gaelic Symphony (1896), a violin sonata, a piano concerto, a piano quintet and a piano trio, several choral and chamber music compositions, piano music (including the Variations on Balkan Themes), approximately 150 songs and the opera Cabildo (1932). 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. In the early 1890s, Beach started having interest in folk songs. She shared that interest with several of her colleagues, and this interest soon came to be the first nationalist movement in American music. Beach's contributions included about thirty songs inspired by folk music, including Scottish; Irish; Balkan; African-American; and Native-American origins, of which she composed five themes.
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List of choral works
- All hail the power of Jesus' name
- Festival Jubilate
- Mass in E-flat major
- Through the house give glimmering light (2 editions available)
- With Violets
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