{ subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/nls-music-notes.php' }

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: B (Part 1 – Beach, Amy)

Have you ever noticed that there are many composers whose last names start with the letter B? Let’s choose one who has an anniversary. This year the music world celebrates Amy Beach’s 150th birthday.

Picture of Amy Beach, head and shoulders, facing slightly left.

Amy Marcy (Cheney) Beach, 1867-1944. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. No known restrictions on publication.

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach was born in Henniker, New Hampshire, on September 5, 1867. From her earliest childhood, she showed extraordinary musical talent. She sang various tunes at age one, started to compose at age four, and picked up the piano easily at age six. So easily in fact, that she already gave a recital one year later to perform pieces by Handel, Chopin, Beethoven, and some of her own compositions. She became very proficient in piano playing and performed, at age 17, Chopin’s F minor piano concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

After getting married in 1885, she shifted her career from being a pianist to become a composer. However, she occasionally performed for charities. In 1886, as noted by biographer Adrienne Fried Block, Amy Beach played to benefit the Perkins Institute for the Blind by playing pieces by Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Liszt.

Amy Beach received much attention for being the first American woman to compose and publish a large scale musical work, her Gaelic Symphony, written between 1894 and 1896 and premiered in 1896 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. When her husband died in 1910, Amy Beach spent time in Europe and returned to the United States in 1914, where she lived in New York City until her death on December 27, 1944.

Amy Beach wrote over 150 works and is best known for her chamber music. Many of her works are inspired by aspects of nature and landscapes. Among her songs are The Year’s at the Spring and Fairy Lullaby.

 

Check out our holdings in braille

Ah, Love, but a day, op. 40, no. 2, from “Lyric fancies,” a collection of songs by American composers for low voice and piano with lyrics by R. Browning (BRM10287)

Children’s album (Minuet — Gavotte — Waltz — March – Polka) for piano (BRM34647)

Ecstasy for high voice with piano accompaniment (BRM20571)

Fairy lullaby, op. 37, no. 3, for low voice with piano accompaniment, with words from Shakespeare  (BRM20560)

Four sketches, op. 15 (In Autumn, no. 1; Phantoms, No. 2; Dreaming, No. 3; Fireflies, No. 4) for piano (BRM35285)

The greenwood, op. 110, for SATB (BRM03806)

Nocturne, op. 107, for piano (BRM03272)

The year’s at the spring, from “Pippa passes,” op. 44, no. 1, with words by Robert Browning: for mezzo-soprano or baritone (BRM27067); for high voice with piano accompaniment (BRM20558); and for voice (d flat) and piano (BRM00544)

Book about Amy Beach

Amy Beach, passionate Victorian: the life and work of an American composer, 1867-1944, by Adrienne Fried Block (DB 50332)

Remembering the Father of the Blues

Today’s blog celebrates the career of W.C. Handy. Born in Florence, Alabama on November 16, 1873, William Christopher Handy became interested in music at an early age. His father, a minister, felt that music was an unwise career choice for him and, indeed, the young Handy experienced years of poverty and homelessness at first. But […]

Veterans Day and Armistice Day – Composers in World War I

This blog takes a look at composers who were affected by World War I and the music that they composed.

Celebrating that “Parisienne Gaiety”

When I was a teenager, I began learning about classical music by listening to radio programs in the evening. Often the shows would begin with an overture or “light classic”, such as the Light Cavalry Overture (which our school band played), or the William Tell Overture (the “Lone Ranger” to me). There was also a […]

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: A (Part 1)

The following is a guest blog post from the new section head of the NLS Music Section, Juliette Appold. Have you ever thought about listing classical and contemporary composers by their last names from A to Z? How about identifying American composers from A to Z? And how about filling the alphabet with names of […]

Back to School: Method Books Edition (Part 2)

Last week, we detailed method books in the collection for wind instruments. This week, we are highlighting method books in our collection for string instruments and percussion, with some jazz method books thrown in for good measure! If there is anything here that could be useful to you or your student, please don’t hesitate to […]

Back to School: Method Books Edition (Part 1)

Although for most of us it still feels like the middle of summer outside, it is time for many folks to begin thinking about back-to-school, and the new books and supplies for the year. That, of course, includes books for music classes, band, and orchestra. In the past, we’ve discussed books for college students, and […]

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Ernesto!

August 6 is the birthday of Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, who lived from 1895 to 1963. While some composers’ names might stir a vague recollection of some concert I attended, Lecuona brings to mind an indelible childhood memory. It happened on a Monday afternoon when I was five or six years old. I was lying […]

There’s No Song Like an Old Song

I’m always reminding myself how fortunate I am to live in an area that offers not only great classical music, theater and dance performances, but many popular music performers make a stop, especially during the summer. Being a child of the sixties, rock and roll concerts usually meant performances in smoky nightclubs (missed out on […]

Thinking About Learning Braille Music? Part I

I always get excited when a patron requests a book on reading braille music because it means one more patron might be able to take advantage of our wonderful braille music collection. In my opinion, braille music readers have an edge over non-readers since they are able to explore and interpret the score themselves. In […]