1867 — 1944
The American composer Amy Beach made a name for herself as a composer of powerful late-romantic music during an era in which many female composers faced societal prejudice. She was born Amy Cheney into an affluent New Hampshire family, and her mother noted that she would sing improvised melodies to piano accompaniments even at the age of five. She studied piano and harmony with private teachers in Boston, teaching herself the rudiments of composition, and she gave her first public performance at the age of sixteen. Her marriage, at the age of 18 to an eminent Boston surgeon temporarily ended her career as a virtuoso pianist, but as a published composer (under the name "Mrs H.H.A. Beach") she rapidly established herself as one of the most distinctive compositional voices of the so-called "Second New England School", winning respect as an equal from her male peers. After her husband's death in 1910 she re-established herself as a performer, too: touring Europe and becoming active in music education. Her own music enjoyed considerable acclaim in her lifetime – and as well as her many songs and piano works, her large-scale Mass in E flat (1890), Gaelic Symphony (1896), Piano Concerto (1899) and Piano Quintet (1907) are all attracting renewed attention. As Beach herself put it, "From Boston, I could reach out to the world".