There is something highly commendable about Amy Beech as a person. She married
a prominent Boston surgeon in 1885 and always wished to be known as Mrs H.H.A.
Beach and not Amy Cheney. Although a contemporary of Dame Ethel Smyth, the
two women could not be more different in character. Smyth was bellicose,
argumentative and dangerous in her eccentricities whereas Beach was a contented
woman who had a tremendous moral stance and was very compassionate. She was
widowed at 43 and found inspiration in the Episcopalian church. She studied
in Germany for three years before the outbreak of the First World War. In
fact it is the Germanic seriousness and romanticism that infuses her work.
Clearly her Piano Quintet owes a great deal to Brahms' F Minor
Quintet and it is a competent and pleasant work, and beautifully played
here but it is not original and could have been written by anyone with Brahms
as a model before them. Occasionally, the music has a sort of Palm Court
sound. There is no music of this time that is original such as Max Roger
for example ... but we must 'balance the scales' and not dismiss Beach as
merely old-fashioned although she was. I always find it difficult when a
composer dismisses the work of Bartók and Hindemith, two giants of
the 20th Century ... which Beach did.
On the other hand, her music is well structured and has a coherence as well
as an obvious appeal. It is vastly better than some British Victorian and
The Theme & Variations comes from her partsong, An Indian Lullaby.
It is another piece with a 'warm' sound; it is very pleasant and again
has a coherence, and these features are most welcome, but there is really
no memorable material. It is almost 'mood' music. It is easy on the
ear and, as a result, becomes tedious.
A little expansiveness is an asset to the Piano Trio but, again it
is very pleasant if not much else. All the harmonies are predictable; there
is nothing neither new nor compelling. One can be bored with bland pleasantness.
Music needs bite!