Yoon Joung Lee
Amy Marcy Cheney, the first successful American female composer and pianist, was born in Henniker, New Hampshire in 1867. Her outstanding musical talents were discovered when she was very young. When she was four, she began playing piano and composing music. When she was 7, she publicly performed and she entered Boston’s musical community when was 8. In 1883 when she was sixteen, she made her first professional piano debut playing Moscheles Piano Concerto in G minor with an orchestra. Later, she became a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In 1885 when she was eighteen, she married Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach who was a prominent Boston physician. Since her marriage, she shifted her focus from performance to composition by her husband’s request. She also changed her professional name to Mrs. H. H. A. Beach. She devoted lots of her time to writing musics and her works were performed in many places by many different artists. In 1986, she received the world’s attention for her Gaelic Symphony in E Minor at Boston Symphony performance and it helped confirm her as one of the country’s prominent composers.
During her life, she created more than 150 works of chamber, orchestral works, and church songs. The beginning of her works were influenced by Wagner and Brahms. But she put in her own characteristic elements like intensity and passion.
Her celebrated compositions include “Gaelic Symphony,” “Cabildo,” “Mass in E-flat,” “The Song of Welcome,” “The Chambered Nautilus,” “Eilende Wolken,” “The Hermit Thrush at Morn,” “Dreaming,” “Ah, Love, but a Day” and “The Year’s at the Spring.”
In 1910 after her husband died, she decided to tour Europe. She also revived her career and used her maiden name- Amy Cheney. When she came back to the U.S. she reused her married name. For the next thirty years, she kept composing and performing.
Failing health hampered her activities during her final years. Her body condition often limited her concert. In 1944, Cheney died by heart failure at the age of 77.