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Amy Beach

Amy Beach was born September 5th, 1867. She was considered the first successful American female composer of large-scale music. Her "Gaelic" Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era. As a pianist, she was acclaimed for concerts she gave featuring her own music in the United States and in Germany.

Amy Beach was born in Henniker, New Hampsire on September 5th, 1867. A remarkable child prodigy, she made her public debut as a pianist in 1883, also the year of her first published compositions.  In 1885 she performed with the Boston  Symphony, but upon her marriage to the distinguished surgeon, Dr. H.H.A. Beach, she curtailed her performing in accordance with his wishes, and focused on composition.  She made one performance per year, with the proceeds donated to charity, and one of these performances was of her own piano concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1900.  Following the death of her husband in 1910, she resumed performing, and toured Europe to great acclaim, performing  her own music, until the onset of WWI.

Later in life she spent most summers composing at the MacDowell Colony, and the rest of the year based mostly in New York City and her Cape Cod home in Centerville, Massachusetts.  At her death she left more than 300 published works, and more of her music has been published in recent decades.  She declared the MacDowell Colony as her estate executor, and all earnings from her music aid in the operations and continuation of the Colony.

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.

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 86 other composers on the granite wall of Boston's famous Hatch Shell. In honor of Beach's 150th birthday, the Mayor of the City of Boston, declared September 5th, 2017, "Amy Beach Day."

Selected Performances

Under The Stars (1907): This wonderfully evocative piece was written in 1907. It's a great example of how Beach used the piano to describe nature; in this case, the evening sky.


Heartease (1922): This beautifully impressionistic piece by composer Amy Beach is the second movement in the 5-movement piano suite titled "From Grandmother's Garden." Heartease is a summer wild flower, bearing many small blooms patterned with purple, lavender and yellow.


Children's Carnival: Columbine (1894): This beautiful little waltz was composed by Beach in 1894, and is part of the suite “Children’s Carnival.” The suite is comprised of 6 pieces and was designed for young piano players. The 6 programmatic movements in the suite depict the characters of early European pantomime, popular in America in the late 19th century: Promenade, Columbine, Pantalon, Pierrot and Pierrette, Secrets and Harlequin.

Locating the Music

Beach's music can be purchased from JW Pepper,, and Sheet Music Plus.

List of Piano Compositions

Valse Caprice (1889)

Ballad (1894),

Four Sketches (1892)

Bal Masque (1894)

Children's Carnival (1894)

Trois Morceaux Caractéristiques (1894)

Children's Album (1897)

Summer Dreams, piano 4 hands (1901)

Scottish Legend, Gavotte fantastique (1903)

Variations on Balkan Themes (1904)

Eskimos: Four Characteristic Pieces (1907)

Suite Française (1907)

Prelude and Fugue (1918)

From Blackbird Hills (1922)

Fantasia Fugata (1923)

The Fair Hills of Eire, piano/organ (1922)

Hermit Thrush at Eve, Hermit Thrush at Morn, (1921)

From Grandmother's Garden (1922)

Piano Compositions (1924): Farewell Summer, Dancing Leaves

Suite for Two Pianos Founded Upon Old Irish Melodies (1924)

Old Chapel by Moonlight (1924)

Nocturne (1924)

A Cradle Song of the Lonely Mother (1924)

From Olden Times

By the Still Waters (1925)

Tyrolean Valse-Fantaisie (1926)

From Six to Twelve (1927)

A Bit of Cairo (1928)

A September Forest (1930)

Three Piano Pieces (1932)

Out of the Depths (1932)

Five Improvisations (1934)


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