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Paul Allen Sommerfeld, Ph.D.
Music Reference Specialist
Created: May 11, 2020
Last Updated: March 8, 2021
Access the Music Division's substantial primary and secondary resources for the composer Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (1867-1944) in the Performing Arts Reading Room and online. The Music Division does not hold one specific collection of Amy Beach materials. These materials live in many different places throughout the Music Division's collections, and include music manuscripts, facsimiles, first and early editions of music scores, critical editions, scholarly literature on Beach, correspondence, special collections, and access to a variety of subscription databases.
Born on September 5, 1867, pianist and composer Amy Marcy Cheney Beach became the first American woman to achieve widespread recognition as a composer of large-scale works with orchestra. She made her professional debut in Boston, Massachusetts in 1883, performing Chopin’s Rondo in E-flat major and Moscheles’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor in A.P. Peck’s Anniversary Concert at the Boston Music Hall. Two years later she played her first performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with Wilhelm Gericke conducting Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor. In 1892, Beach achieved her first notable success as a composer with the performance of her Mass in E-flat by Boston's Handel and Haydn Society.
Beach's national reputation grew through her well-received Symphony, op. 32; Violin Sonata, op. 34; and Piano Concerto, op. 45. In 1892, the Symphony Society of New York premiered her concert aria, Eilende Wolken, op. 18, the first composition by a woman played by that orchestra. As her career blossomed, Beach assumed many leadership positions, often in advancing the cause of American women composers. She was associated with the Music Teachers National Association and the Music Educators National Conference. In 1925, she was a founding member and first president of the Society of American Women Composers.
The Performing Arts Reading Room is the access point for the collections in the custody of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Numbering approximately 20.5 million items and spanning more than 1000 years of Western music history and practice, these holdings include the classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, iconography, microforms, periodicals, musical instruments, published and unpublished copyright deposits, and close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance.