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Amy Marcy Cheney began composing simple waltzes when she was 4. At age 13, she composed a concert aria, which the New York Philharmonic Society performed in 1882. By 16, she had debuted as a pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She performed much less widely after her marriage in I885 to the prominent Boston surgeon H.H.A. Beach, 24 years her senior. Basically self-taught, Amy Beach learned counter-point by writing out fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier from memory, then comparing her version to Bach’s. She studied orchestration by writing out music heard at concerts, then comparing her reconstructions to the original scores. She enjoyed tremendous success throughout her life, nearly all her 150 compositions finding publication and wide acclaim. Her major works include a Mass in E-flat, premiered by the Handel and Haydn Society, the Gaelic Symphony, first American symphony to become part of the repertoire of major European orchestras, a Piano Concerto in C# minor, and the opera Cabildo.
Prelude on an Old Folk Tune, "The Fair Hills of Eire, O" is Beach’s only known organ work. It epitomizes her fondness for complex, thoughtful harmonies, twisting transitions, broad melodic gestures, and pedal points. Published in 1943 by H.W. Gray, the work is still in print.
(contribution by Christa Rakich <firstname.lastname@example.org>)