The 1934 copyright claim is bogus. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. Amy showed every sign of a child prodigy. She was able to sing forty songs accurately by age one, she was capable of improvising counter-melody by age two, and she taught herself to read at age three. Amy began formal piano lessons with her mother at age six, and soon gave public recitals of works by Handel, Beethoven, and Chopin, as well as her own pieces. In 1875, the Cheney family moved to Chelsea, a suburb just across the Mystic River from Boston. Amy would later recall one rehearsal for a Mendelssohn concerto in 1885, when the conductor slowed the orchestra during the last movement, attempting to go easy on the teenage soloist.
When Amy began the piano part, however, she played at full prescribed tempo: “I did not know that he was sparing me, but I did know that the tempo dragged, and I swung the orchestra into time”. Her name would subsequently be listed on concert programs and published compositions as “Mrs. A major compositional success came with her Mass in E-flat major, which was performed in 1892 by the Handel and Haydn Society orchestra, which since its foundation in 1815 had never performed a piece composed by a woman. Beach followed this up with an important milestone in music history: her Gaelic Symphony, the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. In 1900, the Boston Symphony premiered Beach’s Piano Concerto, with the composer as soloist. It has been suggested that the piece suggests Beach’s struggles against her mother and husband for control of her musical life. Franz Kneisel was a leading violinist in Boston and beyond, having been hired at about age 20 by Wilhelm Gericke, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as concertmaster of the orchestra.
In January 1897 Amy played, with Franz Kneisel, in the premiere of her Sonata for Piano and Violin, which she had composed in the spring of 1896. In 1900, with the Kneisel Quartet, Amy performed the Brahms quintet for Piano and Strings. Beach wrote her own Quintet for piano and strings, in F-sharp minor, in 1905. During Beach’s lifetime, the work had well over forty performances, in dozens of cities, over the radio, and by many string quartets. Variations on Balkan Themes, Beach’s “longest and most important solo” piano work, was composed in 1904.
It responded to revolts in the Balkans against the then ruling Ottoman Empire. Her father, Charles Cheney, had died in 1895. Beach felt unable to work for a while. She went to Europe in hopes of recovering there.