Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Amy Beach

Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Amy Beach (1867-1944)

Amy Marcy Cheney was born in Henniker, New Hampshire on September 5, 1867. She was a phenomenal child prodigy as both a pianist and composer. (She “composed” her first piece – a set of three waltzes – in her head at the age of four at her grandfather’s house, at which there was no piano. She was able to play them only after having returned home.) 

Ms. Cheney made her official concert debut in October of 1883 – at the age of 16 – at Boston’s Music Hall. She performed Chopin’s virtuosic Rondo in E-flat, Op. 16 and then, along with the Boston Symphony under the baton of Adolf Neuendorff, she was the soloist in a performance of Ignaz Moscheles’ Piano Concerto No. 3 in G Minor. According to her biographer Adrienne Fried Block, the audience reaction was “enthusiastic in the extreme.”

That “extreme enthusiasm” was to follow Amy Cheney wherever she performed, and there’s no doubt that were she alive today she would have a successful – perhaps even a spectacular – international concert career.

But in late nineteenth century New England that was out of the question.…

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