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

    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

    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: 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 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

    The Complete Johanna Gadski, Vol. 1

    (Amy Marcy Beach and Arthur Foote)

    1909

    Books

    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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