Amy Beach

American composer, pianist and teacher Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (sometimes also known as Mrs H H A Beach) was born Amy Marcy Cheney in Henniker, New Hampshire on 5 September 1867 into an artistic and musical family, and showed signs of being a child prodigy, composing piano pieces mentally at the age of four, and making her family struggle to keep up with her demands and interests. Amy Beach was largely self-taught.

She made her debut as a pianist, aged sixteen, to great acclaim, at Boston's music hall, playing Moscheles and Chopin.

Marriage to a Boston surgeon curtailed her performing career considerably, and she concentrated on composition, producing more than three hundred works.

She had a major success with her Mass in E flat, which became the first piece by a woman performed by Boston's Handel and Haydn Society. Her Gaelic Symphony was the first symphony by an Amercian woman to be composed and published.

After the deaths of her husband and her mother, Amy Beach spent time performing in Germany, where she was known as the first American woman able to 'compose music of a European quality of excellence'. Many years later she also visited Rome.

Later, feted as the 'top female American composer', she used her status to help younger musicians, and also worked as a teacher.

Amy Beach died from heart disease in New York City on 27 December 1944, aged seventy-seven.


A selection of articles about Amy Beach

Ensemble. Remarkable Assurance - Mike Wheeler savours an Anglo-American programme from the Sitwell Singers

A Treasure Trove - Roderic Dunnett explores the substantial catalogue of Regent Records

Ensemble. Bold and Resolute - Roderic Dunnett is impressed by a performance of Amy Beach's Mass in E flat

Profile. A Dramatic Entrance - Matt Spangler and Lucy Mauro shine a light on an American classical pioneer

A Call to Action - George Colerick discusses early Romanticism, with particular reference to Schubert, the piano, Schumann and the development of the symphony orchestra

Ensemble. Me and my Aunts - A Shakespeare celebration, reviewed by Mike Wheeler

CD Spotlight. Truly Superlative - Music by twentieth century women composers impresses Geoff Pearce. '... the Trio des Alpes is committed and convincing ...'

CD Spotlight. Velvet Quality - Violin lullabies from Rachel Barton Pine, heard by Howard Smith. '... soporific, inescapable uniformity.'

CD Spotlight. Hidden Byways - Ruthanne Schempf plays American piano music, recommended by Gerald Fenech. '... her performances are fresh and immediate ...'

Imaginative Heights - Gordon Rumson looks forward to the Calgary Art Song Competition

CD Spotlight. A Diverse Miscellany - Rachel Barton Pine's tribute to Maud Powell, welcomed by Howard Smith. '... irresistible artistry ...'

Ensemble. Tonal Luxuriance - Lawrence Budmen reports from Tanglewood 2009

Ensemble. Bravo Chameleon! - Scintillating sounds at the Third Annual Women Composers Concert, by Lawrence Budmen