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Amy Beach


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Henniker NH, United States (1867 – 1944)

Amy Marcy Beach (1867–1944), was a U.S. pianist and composer of classical music. She was the first successful female U.S. composer. Many of her compositions and performances were under the name Mrs H.H.A. Beach.

She was born Amy Marcy Cheney on the 5th September 1867 in Henniker, New Hampshire into a family of important political, military, and business figures. A child prodigy, she could sing forty songs by the age of one, and composed her first song at the age of four. She made her professional debut in Boston in 1883, and shortly thereafter appeared as a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Following her marriage in 1885 to Dr Henry H.A. Beach, a Boston surgeon, however, she largely stopped performing (at his request) and devoted herself instead to composition. After her husband died in 1910, she toured Europe as a pianist, playing her own compositions. She returned to America in 1914, where she spent time at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She died on the 27th December 1944 in New York City.

Her compositions include the Gaelic Symphony (1893), the Mass in E flat Major, a piano concerto, a piano quintet, a quantity of choral music, chamber music (including the Pastorale for winds), piano music, and the opera Cabildo (1932). She was most popular, however, for her songs. Her style of writing is mainly in a Romantic idiom, and is often compared to Brahms, although in her later works she experimented with techniques such as whole tone scales (by which time they were no longer a novelty).


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