Classical 91.5

Mon 4/27, 9:00a Amy Beach's Piano Quintet in f-sharp minor, played at the Geneva Music Festival

Apr 13, 2020

She was the pride of Henniker, New Hampshire. At a time when women were relegated to playing pretty parlor pieces, Amy Beach's parents allowed her to pursue her pianistic passion. Beach studied with the finest teachers and made her debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the tender age of 16. Within two years she was married, and her performing career came to a screeching halt, save one concert a year for charity. Although she was permitted piano lessons, she was never allowed to study composition; that was not a proper place for a woman. So Beach studied scores and read up on theory and taught herself. When Beach's scores were published, it was under the moniker Mrs. H.H.A. Beach. But after her husband's death in 1910, Beach took back her name and headed to Europe for a tour. She would become America's first successful woman composer, and one of the most performed composers in her generation.

Amy Beach's sole piano quintet was written the year before her husband died. Lauded at its premiere as "truly modern,' one critic did quibble that the piano drowned out the strings in places. But Beach was playing the lead, so can you blame her? Long out of print, the quintet is making its way back into the concert halls; it was a pleasure to hear this performance at the Geneva Music Festival.  Festival Director Geoffrey Herd plays violin with Shawn Moore, Kirsten Docter is the violist, Clive Greensmith the cellist, and Esther Park is the pianist. It was recorded on June 15, 2019 in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.