Amy Marcy Beach

Amy Marcy Beach was a piano prodigy who turned to composing after marriage; she became the first American woman to achieve wide recognition as a composer. She set more than 150 songs, most of them in the unabashedly romantic style of her day, and was the first president of the Society of American Women Composers.

Photo: Mrs. H. H. A. Beach. Halftone. Illustrated in American Composers by Rupert Hughes and Arthur Elson. Boston: The Page Company, 1914, facing page 426. Music Division, Library of Congress. LC call number: ML390.H89 1914 Copy 3

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About

Born Amy Marcy Cheney in Henniker, New Hampshire in 1867, Mrs. H.H.A. Beach, as she styled herself after her marriage to a prominent physician in 1885, became the first woman composer to achieve wide recognition in America. A child prodigy on the piano, she made her Boston concert debut at age sixteen. Within two years she had performed Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and had begun to tour widely as a soloist.

After marriage to Dr. Beach, however, she curtailed her concertizing in favor of homemaking. It was during this period that Mrs. Beach first began to compose. Her Festival Jubilate, written for the dedication of the Women’s Building at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, won recognition for her as a serious composer in the Romantic genre. She followed this success with a Gaelic Symphony, performed by the Boston Symphony in 1896, and her Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor in 1899, which she herself premiered with the same orchestra.

As a widow starting in 1910, Mrs. Beach resumed her concertizing in America and Germany and increased her compositional output. In addition to her piano music and large-scale orchestral works, she created more than 150 songs, almost all in the grand, operatic, heart-on-sleeve vein of the late 19th century. Settings like “Ah, Love, But a Day!” and “The Year’s at the Spring,” both poems by Robert Browning, became staples of the early 20th-century concert repertory.

After her death in 1944, Mrs. Beach’s music, like so many other Romantic works, endured a period of neglect, which is being reversed by the efforts of committed singers and musicologists.t

Neither the first nor the last American woman to write concert music, Amy Beach retains a certain cachet as the first to achieve serious acclaim both in this country and abroad. Considered in her day to be the equal of Paine, Parker, Chadwick, Foote, and the other members of the Second New England School, it may seem ironic that until recently her reputation has been kept alive largely through amateur societies and women’s clubs. Yet one must consider the role that domestic music making had in shaping all of 19th-century American musical taste.

If one remembers that virtually every middle class American home had a piano; that a young lady’s accomplishments were expected to include playing and singing; and that amateur music making (in which women played a dominant role) figured significantly in creating a public for professional classical music, then it is less surprising that Amy Beach, despite her formal training and professional achievements, remained connected to this tradition throughout her life and even after her death. Sometimes criticized for the sentimentality of her writing, like so many other composers of her day, Amy Beach was simply exploring her roots and her cultural context; she was a child of the great Romantic era which swept Europe and America, and she was also a student of that more intimate kind of romanticism–the sentiment born of hearth and home and the individual heart.

Beach assumed many leadership positions, often in advancing the cause of American women composers. She was associated with the Music Teachers National Association and the Music Educators National Conference. In 1925, she was a founding member and first president of the Society of American Women Composers. Following her death in 1944, Beach’s royalties were given to the MacDowell Colony, as prescribed in her will.

Sources –Thomas Hampson and Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, PBS I Hear America Singing –Library of Congress Performing Arts Encyclopedia

 

Related Information

Recordings

The Soul Fox

(Amy Marcy Beach, Lori Laitman and Ned Rorem)

2017

Stopping By

(Mark Abel, Samuel Barber, Amy Marcy Beach, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Wakefield Cadman, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Celius Dougherty, John Woods Duke, Stephen Foster, Charles Griffes and Ned Rorem)

2013

L'Heure Rose: Musiques de Femmes

(Amy Marcy Beach)

2007

All My Heart

(Amy Marcy Beach, Charles Ives, Leonard Bernstein, Ben Moore and Charles Griffes)

2005

Amy Beach: Songs

(Amy Marcy Beach)

2004

Amy Beach: Chanson d'Amour

(Amy Marcy Beach)

2000

Ah! Love, But A Day

(Amy Marcy Beach, Margaret Bonds, Libby Larsen, Margaret Ruthven Lang, Undine Smith Moore, Florence Price, Gladys Rich, Traditional and Gwyneth Van Anden Walker)

1998

Carolyn Heafner Sings American Songs

(Ernst Bacon, Hugo Weisgall, Lee Hoiby and Amy Marcy Beach)

2000

American Classics: Amy Beach: Songs

(Amy Marcy Beach)

1999

Sure on This Shining Night

(Samuel Barber, George Whitefield Chadwick, Charles Ives, John Corigliano, Aaron Copland, William Bolcom, Ned Rorem, Richard Hageman, Charles Griffes, Victor Herbert, Horatio Parker, John Musto, Amy Marcy Beach, Theodore Chanler and Virgil Thomson)

1997

American Songbook - The American Music Collection, Vol. 3

(Amy Marcy Beach, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, William Bolcom, Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Betty Jackson King, Libby Larsen and Kurt Weill)

1996

Paul Sperry Sings Songs of an Innocent Age

(Amy Marcy Beach, Charles Wakefield Cadman, John Alden Carpenter, George Whitefield Chadwick, Arthur Foote, Henry F. Gilbert, Charles Griffes, Charles Ives, Edward MacDowell and Ethelbert Nevin)

1990

Icon: Jussi Björling (Disc 4)

(Amy Marcy Beach, Louis Campbell-Tipton, Stephen Foster and Oley Speaks)

1959

Jussi Björling Edition - Studio Recordings 1930-1959

(Amy Marcy Beach, Louis Campbell-Tipton, Stephen Foster and Oley Speaks)

1959

The Complete Johanna Gadski, Vol. 1

(Amy Marcy Beach and Arthur Foote)

1909

Books

Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian: The Life and Work of an American Composer, 1867-1944

By Adrienne Fried Block

Amy Beach and Her Chamber Music: Biography, Documents, Style

By Jeanell Wise Brown

Songs

A Canadian Boat Song, op. 10, no. 1

Amy Marcy Beach

Song Collection: Songs of the Sea, Op. 10

A Song of Liberty (op. 49)

Amy Marcy Beach

Frank Lebby Stanton

A Thanksgiving Fable (op. 75, no. 2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Oliver Herford

Across the World (Villanelle)

Amy Marcy Beach

Edith Matilda Thomas

Ah, Love, But a Day (op. 44, no. 2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Robert Browning

Song Collection: Three Browning Songs, Op. 44

Anita (op. 41, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Cora Randall Fabbri

Song Collection: Three songs, Op. 41

Ariette (op. 1, no. 4)

Amy Marcy Beach

Autumn Song (op. 56, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Henry Harris Aubrey Beach

Ecstasy (op. 19, no.2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Amy Marcy Beach

Empress of Night (op. 2, no. 3)

Amy Marcy Beach

Henry Harris Aubrey Beach

Song Collection: Three Songs, Op. 2

For Me the Jasmine Buds Unfold (op. 19, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Florence Earle Coates

Forget-Me-Not (op. 35, no. 4)

Amy Marcy Beach

Henry Harris Aubrey Beach

Forgotten (op. 41, no. 3)

Amy Marcy Beach

Cora Randall Fabbri

Song Collection: Three songs, Op. 41

Four songs, Op. 14

Song Collection

Amy Marcy Beach

Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Walter Learned

Edward Rowland Sill

Go Not Too Far (op. 56, no. 2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Florence Earle Coates

Hymn of Trust (op. 13)

Amy Marcy Beach

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

I Know Not How to Find the Spring (op. 56, no. 3)

Amy Marcy Beach

Florence Earle Coates

I Send My Heart Up To Thee (op. 44, no. 3)

Amy Marcy Beach

Robert Browning

Song Collection: Three Browning Songs, Op. 44

Just for This! (op. 26, no. 2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Cora Randall Fabbri

Mine Be the Lips (op. 113)

Amy Marcy Beach

Leonora Speyer

My Star

Amy Marcy Beach

Robert Browning

My Star (op. 26, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Cora Randall Fabbri

Prayer of a Tired Child (op. 75, no. 4)

Amy Marcy Beach

Abbie Farwell Brown

Sea Song, op. 10, no. 3

Amy Marcy Beach

William Ellery Channing

Song Collection: Songs of the Sea, Op. 10

Separation (op. 76, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

John Lawson Stoddard

Sleep, Little Darling (op. 29, no. 3)

Amy Marcy Beach

Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford

Songs of the Sea, Op. 10

Song Collection

Amy Marcy Beach

William Ellery Channing

Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford

Sweetheart, Sigh No More! (op. 14, no. 3)

Amy Marcy Beach

Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Song Collection: Four songs, Op. 14

The Candy Lion (op. 75, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Abbie Farwell Brown

The Night Sea (op. 10, no. 2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford

Song Collection: Songs of the Sea, Op. 10

The Summer Wind (op. 14, no.1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Walter Learned

Song Collection: Four songs, Op. 14

The Thrush (op. 14, no. 4)

Amy Marcy Beach

Edward Rowland Sill

Song Collection: Four songs, Op. 14

The Year's at the Spring (op. 44, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Robert Browning

Song Collection: Four songs, Op. 14

Three Songs, Op. 2

Song Collection

Amy Marcy Beach

Henry Harris Aubrey Beach

Three songs, Op. 41

Amy Marcy Beach

Cora Randall Fabbri

Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford

Thy Beauty (op. 41, no. 2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Harriet Elizabeth Prescott Spofford

Song Collection: Three songs, Op. 41

Twilight (op. 2, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Henry Harris Aubrey Beach

Song Collection: Three Songs, Op. 2

When Far From Her (op. 2, no. 2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Henry Harris Aubrey Beach

Song Collection: Three Songs, Op. 2

When Soul is Joined to Soul (op. 62)

Amy Marcy Beach

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wind o' the Westland (op. 77, no. 2)

Amy Marcy Beach

Dana Burnet

With Violets (op. 1, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Kate Vannah

Within Thy Heart (op. 29, no. 1)

Amy Marcy Beach

Amy Marcy Beach

Audio

Track:

    Sheet Music

    IMSLP: Amy Beach Sheet Music

    Find via IMSLP

    28 Songs, Vol. 3, including "Within Thy Heart"

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Recital Publications

    28 Songs, Vol. 4, including "Forget-Me-Not"

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Recital Publications

    Ah, Love, But a Day

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Free Sheet Music on IMSLP

    "Anita" (op. 41, no. 1), High Voice

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Voice Type: High

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    "Anita" (op. 41, no. 1), Medium Voice

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Voice Type: Medium

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    "Ariette" (op. 1, no. 4)

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    Four Songs, Op. 56 (low voice)

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Song(s): Autumn Song (op. 56, no. 1)
    Go Not Too Far (op. 56, no. 2)
    I Know Not How to Find the Spring (op. 56, no. 3)

    Voice Type: Low

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    Four Songs, Op. 56 (high voice)

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Song(s): Autumn Song (op. 56, no. 1)
    Go Not Too Far (op. 56, no. 2)
    I Know Not How to Find the Spring (op. 56, no. 3)

    Voice Type: High

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    Four Songs, Op. 75

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Song(s): The Candy Lion (op. 75, no. 1)
    A Thanksgiving Fable (op. 75, no. 2)
    Prayer of a Tired Child (op. 75, no. 4)

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    "Forgotten" (op. 41, no. 3), High Voice

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Voice Type: High

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    "Forgotten" (op. 41, no. 3), Medium/Low Voice

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Voice Type: Medium/Low

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    Hymn of Trust, Op. 13

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    "Just For This", Op. 26, No. 2

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    "My Star," op. 26, no. 1

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    Song of Liberty, Op. 49

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    Three Browning Songs

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    Three Songs, Op. 19

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Song(s): For Me the Jasmine Buds Unfold (op. 19, no. 1)
    Ecstasy (op. 19, no.2)

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    "Thy Beauty," op. 41, no. 2

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    Two Songs, Op. 76

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Song(s): Separation (op. 76, no. 1)
    The Lotos Isles (op. 76, no. 2)

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    Two Songs, Op. 77

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Song(s): Wind o' the Westland (op. 77, no. 2)

    Buy via LudwigMasters Publications

    "With Violets" ("Music for a Nation: American Sheet Music")

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    View via Library of Congress

    "With Violets"

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    IMSLP: Free Sheet Music

    "When Soul is Joined to Soul", Op. 62

    Composer(s): Amy Beach

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

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