|Birth Day:||September 5, 1867|
|Death Date:||Dec 27, 1944 (age 77)|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
Remembered for her numerous chamber, piano, choral, and art and folk music compositions, this late 19th and early 20th-century songwriter and concert pianist is perhaps most famous for her Three Browning Songs, Op. 44.
As per our current Database, Amy Beach died on Dec 27, 1944 (age 77).
A musical prodigy, Amy Beach could sing nearly four dozen songs by the age of one. As a toddler, Amy Beach could improvise harmonies to her mother's melodies, and by age five, she was already composing music.
Amy Marcy Cheney was born in Henniker, New Hampshire on September 5, 1867 to Charles Abbott Cheney (nephew of Oren B. Cheney, who co-founded Bates College) and Clara Imogene Marcy Cheney. Artistic ability appears to have run in the family: Clara was reputedly an "excellent pianist and singer," while Beach showed every sign of being a child prodigy. She was able to sing forty songs accurately by age one, she was capable of improvising counter-melody by age two, and she taught herself to read at age three. At four, she composed three waltzes for piano during one summer at her grandfather's farm in West Henniker, NH, despite the absence of a piano; instead, she composed the pieces mentally and played them when she returned home. She could also play music by ear, including four-part hymns. The family struggled to keep up with her musical interests and demands. Her mother sang and played for her, but attempted to prevent the child from playing the family piano herself, believing that to indulge the child's wishes in this respect would damage parental authority. Beach often commanded what music was played in the home, becoming enraged if it did not meet her standards.
In 1875, the Cheney family moved to Chelsea, a suburb just across the Mystic River from Boston. They were advised there to enroll Beach in a European conservatory, but opted instead for local training, hiring Ernst Perabo and later Carl Baermann (himself a student of Franz Liszt) as piano teachers. In 1881–82, the fourteen-year-old also studied harmony and counterpoint with Junius W. Hill. This would be her only formal instruction as a composer, but "[s]he collected every book she could find on theory, composition, and orchestration ... she taught herself ... counterpoint, harmony, fugue," even translating Gevaert's and Berlioz's French treatises on orchestration, considered "most composers' bibles," into English for herself.
Amy Cheney made her concert debut at age sixteen on October 18, 1883 in a "Promenade Concert" conducted by Adolph Neuendorff at Boston's Music Hall, where she played Chopin's Rondo in E-flat and was piano soloist in Moscheles's piano concerto No. 3 in G minor, to general acclaim: as biographer Fried Block comments, "[i]t is hard to imagine a more positive critical reaction to a debut," and her audience was "enthusiastic in the extreme." The next two years of her career included performances in Chickering Hall, and she starred in the final performance of the Boston Symphony's 1884–85 season.
Beach would later recall one rehearsal for a Mendelssohn concerto in 1885, when the conductor slowed the orchestra during the last movement, attempting to go easy on the teenage soloist. When she began the piano part, however, she played at full prescribed tempo: "I did not know that he was sparing me, but I did know that the tempo dragged, and I swung the orchestra into time".
A major compositional success came with her Mass in E-flat major, which was performed in 1892 by the Handel and Haydn Society orchestra, which since its foundation in 1815 had never performed a piece composed by a woman. Newspaper music critics responded to the Mass by declaring Beach one of America's foremost composers, comparing the piece to Masses by Cherubini and Bach.
Franz Kneisel was a leading violinist in Boston and beyond, having been hired at about age 20 by Wilhelm Gericke, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as concertmaster of the orchestra. Soon after arriving in Boston, he formed the Kneisel String Quartet with three other string players of the Boston Symphony. (The Quartet lasted until 1917. Meantime Kneisel moved to New York in 1905.) In 1894 Beach had joined the Quartet in performing Robert Schumann's Quintet for piano and strings.
In January 1897 she played, with Franz Kneisel, in the premiere of her Sonata for Piano and Violin, which she had composed in the spring of 1896. Critical reception in New York was mixed, but in Europe, it was better: composer and pianist Teresa Carreño performed the piece with violinist Carl Halir in Berlin, October 1899 and wrote to Beach:
In 1900, the Boston Symphony premiered Beach's Piano Concerto, with the composer as soloist. It has been suggested that the piece suggests Beach's struggles against her mother and husband for control of her musical life.
In 1900, with the Kneisel Quartet, Beach performed the Brahms quintet for Piano and Strings. Beach wrote her own Quintet for piano and strings, in F-sharp minor, in 1905. "During Beach's lifetime, the work had well over forty performances, in dozens of cities, over the radio, and by many string quartets. A large number of those performances were with the composer at the piano, most notably during a lengthy tour in 1916 and 1917 with the Kneisel Quartet." This was the 33rd and last season for the Quartet. Beach performed her Quintet with them in Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Variations on Balkan Themes, Beach's "longest and most important solo" piano work, was composed in 1904. It responded to revolts in the Balkans against the then ruling Ottoman Empire.
Her husband died in June 1910 (the couple had been childless) and her mother 7 months later. Her father, Charles Cheney, had died in 1895. Beach felt unable to work for a while. She went to Europe in hopes of recovering there. In Europe she changed her name to "Amy Beach". She travelled together with Marcella (Marcia) Craft, an American soprano who was "prima donna of the Berlin Royal Opera." Beach's first year in Europe "was of almost entire rest." In 1912 she gradually resumed giving concerts, Her European debut was in Dresden, October 1912, playing her violin and piano sonata with violinist "Dr. Bülau," to favorable reviews. In Munich in January 1913, she gave a concert, again with her violin sonata, but now with three sets of songs, two of her own and one by Brahms, and solo piano music by Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Two critics were rather unfavorable, one calling Beach's songs "kitschy." She was unfazed, saying the audience was "large and very enthusiastic." Demand arose for sheet music of Beach's songs and solo piano pieces, beyond the supply that Beach's publisher Arthur P. Schmidt had available for German music stores. Later In January, still in Munich, she performed in her Piano Quintet; a critic praised her composing, which he did not like all that well, more than her playing. In a further concert in Breslau, only three of Beach's songs were on the program, fewer than in Munich.
In November–December 1913 she played the solo part in her Piano Concerto with orchestras in Leipzig, Hamburg, and Berlin. Her Gaelic Symphony was also performed in Hamburg and Leipzig. A Hamburg critic wrote "we have before us undeniably a possessor of musical gifts of the highest kind; a musical nature touched with genius." She was greeted as the first American woman "able to compose music of a European quality of excellence."
She returned to America in 1914, not long after the beginning of World War I. Beach and Craft made pro-German statements to the American press, but Beach said her allegiance was to "the musical, not the militaristic Germany." She gave some manuscripts of music she had written in Europe to Craft, who brought them back to the U.S. Beach delayed her own departure until September 1914 and so had a further trunkful of manuscripts confiscated at the Belgian border. Beach eventually recovered the trunk and contents in 1929.
In 1915, the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal and the city's recovery from the 1906 earthquake and fire. Amy Beach was honored often by concerts of her music and receptions during 1915, and her Panama Hymn was commissioned for the occasion. In 1915, and again in 1916, Beach visited her aunt Franc and cousin Ethel in San Francisco, who by then were her closest living relatives. About August 6, 1916, Beach, Franc, and Ethel left San Francisco together, leaving Franc's husband Lyman Clement behind, a "fifty-year-old marriage broken apart", for unknown reasons. The three women took up residence in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, where Franc and Beach's mother had been born. Lyman Clement "was settled" in a Veterans' Home in California from 1917 until his death in 1922. After 1916, "Hillsborough was Beach's official residence: there she voted in presidential elections." In 1918, her cousin Ethel "developed a terminal illness," and she spent time taking care of her, as Franc, at age 75, "could hardly" do so by herself.
Beach was a musical intellectual who wrote for journals, newspapers, and other publications. She gave advice to young musicians and composers – especially female composers. From career to piano technique advice, Beach readily provided her opinions in articles such as, "To the Girl who Wants to Compose", and "Emotion Versus Intellect in Music." In 1915, she had written Music’s Ten Commandments as Given for Young Composers, which expressed many of her self-teaching principles.
Aside from concert tours and the time of Ethel's illness until her death in 1920, Beach also spent part of her time in New York. Someone had asked her if she were the daughter of Mrs. H. H. A. Beach. She resumed using that married name, but used "Amy Beach" on bookplates and stationery. For a few summers, she composed at her cottage in Centerville, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.
From 1921 on she spent part of each summer as a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where she composed several works and encountered other women composers and/or musicians, including Emilie Frances Bauer, Marion Bauer, Mabel Wheeler Daniels, Fannie Charles Dillon, and Ethel Glenn Hier, who "were or became long-time friends" of Beach. But there were "generational and gender divisions" among the Fellows in music, with some feeling that Beach's music was "no longer fashionable".
In 1924 Beach sold the house in Boston she had inherited from her husband. Her aunt Franc had become "feeble" around 1920, developed dementia in 1924, and died in November 1925 in Hillsborough, after which Beach had no surviving relatives as close as Ethel and Franc had been. In the fall of 1930 Beach rented a studio apartment in New York. There she became the virtual composer-in-residence at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church. Her music had been used during the previous 20 years in services at the church, attributed to "H. H. A. Beach", with "Mrs." added only from 1931 on.
She used her status as the top female American composer to further the careers of young musicians. While she had agreed not to give private music lessons while married, Beach was able to work as a music educator during the early 20th century. She served as President of the Board of Councillors of the New England Conservatory of Music. She worked to coach and give feedback to various young composers, musicians, and students. Given her status and advocacy for music education, she was in high demand as a speaker and performer for various educational institutions and clubs, such as the University of New Hampshire, where she received an honorary master's degree in 1928. She also worked to create "Beach Clubs," which helped teach and educate children in music. She served as leader of some organizations focused on music education and women, including the Society of American Women Composers as its first president.
Beach spent the winter and spring of 1928–29 in Rome. She went to concerts "almost daily" and found Respighi's Feste Romane, just written in 1928, to be "superbly brilliant," but disliked a piece by Paul Hindemith. In March 1929 she gave a concert to benefit the American Hospital in Rome, in which her song "The Year's at the Spring" was encored and a "large sum of money" was raised. Beach, like her friends in Rome, briefly became an admirer of the Italian dictator Mussolini. She returned to the United States with a two-week stopover in Leipzig, where she met her old friend, the singer Marcella Craft.
She was a member of Chapter R (New York City) of the P.E.O. Sisterhood. Late in her life, she collaborated on the "Ballad of P.E.O." with the words written by Ruth Comfort Mitchell, Chapter BZ/California. Heart disease led to Beach's retirement in 1940 and her death in New York City in 1944. Amy Beach is buried with her husband in the Forest Hills Cemetery in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.
Despite her fame and recognition during her lifetime, Beach was largely neglected after her death in 1944 until the late 20th century. Efforts to revive interest in Beach's works have been largely successful during the last few decades.
Beach's Piano Concerto has been praised as an overlooked masterwork by modern critics. In 1994 Phil Greenfield of The Baltimore Sun called it "a colorful, dashing work that might become extremely popular if enough people get a chance to hear it. In 2000 Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle also lauded the composition, writing:
In 1994, the Boston Women's Heritage Trail placed a bronze plaque at her Boston address, and in 1995, Beach's gravesite at Forest Hills Cemetery was dedicated. In 1999, she was put into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2000, the Boston Pops paid tribute by adding her name as the first woman joining 87 other composers on the granite wall of Boston's Hatch Shell. In honor of Beach's 150th birthday Marty Walsh, Mayor of the City of Boston, declared September 5, 2017 to be "Amy Beach Day." Also commemorating Beach's sesquicentennial, The New York Times published an article by William Robin, "Amy Beach, a Pioneering American Composer, Turns 150".
Sacred choral works among Beach's compositions are mainly for 4 voices and organ, but a few are for voices and orchestra, two being the Mass in E-flat major (1892) and her setting of St. Francis's Canticle of the Sun (1924, 1928), first performed at St. Bartholomew's in New York. A setting of the Te Deum with organ was first performed by the choir of men and boys at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston. The Capitol Hill Choral Society of Washington, D.C., recorded the Canticle of the Sun, seven Communion Responses, and other pieces by Beach in 1998, led by its Musical Director Betty Buchanan, who founded the Society in 1983.
The symphony has received praise from modern critics, such as Andrew Achenbach of Gramophone, who in 2003 lauded the work for its "big heart, irresistible charm and confident progress." In 2016, Jonathan Blumhofer of The Arts Fuse wrote:
Shortly after marrying a physician named Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, Amy Beach composed a classical piece, the Mass in E-flat major, that launched her to fame.
Currently, Amy Beach is 153 years, 9 months and 7 days old. Amy Beach will celebrate 154th birthday on a Sunday 5th of September 2021. Below we countdown to Amy Beach upcoming birthday.