Gaelic Symphony of Amy Beach on Symphony @ 7

Amy Beach(Photo: Wikipedia)
Amy Beach(Photo: Wikipedia)

As we celebrate American symphonies on Symphony @ 7 in August, we have one of the first prominent American women composers, Amy Beach, and her Gaelic Symphony this evening on Classical 101.

Amy Beach, born in 1867, was a child prodigy who grew up in Boston, and by the time she was 16, she was giving recitals and received glowing reviews as soloist in Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony.

Amy Marcy Cheney married a Boston surgeon 24 years her senior when she was 18, becoming Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, and at his request gave up performing in public regularly. Lucky for posterity though, she did concentrate on composing and taught herself orchestration.  The Symphony in E Minor, from 1896 is her best-known work, but there’s a very fine piano concerto as well.

The symphony got the nickname, Gaelic, for its use of traditional Irish tunes.  During her lifetime it was performed by the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Hamburg, and Leipzig, among others.

When her husband died in 1910,  she very successfully resumed her professional concert career as a pianist and composer, now as Amy Beach. She died in New York City in 1944 at the age of 77, a hero to aspiring women composers.