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Composer of the Week: Amy Beach

photo courtesy of www.femininemusique.com

photo courtesy of www.femininemusique.com

It’s high time we get a female composer represented up in here! Amy Beach is super awesome, so she’s the first.

b. Henniker, New Hampshire, September 5, 1867

d. New York, New York, December 27, 1944

From an early age it was obvious that Amy Cheney Beach was a musical prodigy, and though her mother was a piano teacher, she resisted the fact that her daughter embodied such vast musical talent — Beach was forbidden to study piano until the age of six. Despite the resistance she met at home, the young musician could not be stopped. Beach had perfect pitch, excellent memorizations skills, and as a child had a color identification system for keys: C, white; E, yellow; G, red; A, green; Ab, blue; Db, violet; Eb, pink; F# and G# minor, black.

At the age of 18, in 1885, Amy Cheney married Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a widower in his early forties. A surgeon at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Beach encouraged his new wife to spend her time composing music, and he drastically reduced her performance schedule. It was this request that instilled her new once-per year benefit recital. Though Beach abhorred the request and thought of herself as a pianist first and foremost, she abided by the request and began working on larger works.

Throughout her life, Beach was often recognized for her compositional abilities. She was an honorary member of the Chromatic Club of Boston—a group of professional musicians who were trained in Europe. Additionally she was the only female member of “The Boston Six,” a group said to be the first to write classical music in the United States. Beach was recognized internationally in an exhibit at the Paris Opera House, and was thought to be an important icon in American culture.

Where to start:

-Her Gaelic Symphony and Piano Concerto are among her most famous works

-Listen to some samples of Beach’s music on last.fm

-Download a recording of her work From Grandmother’s Garden. Beautiful!

Here is a portion of her Piano Concerto:

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