Critic’s Choice

Tue May 31, 2016 at 2:58 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Amy Beach
Amy Beach

Next year will mark the 150th birthday anniversary of Amy Beach. Beach (1867-1944) was a pioneer, who began composing at age five and gave her first public recital at 7. She was the first American woman to emerge as a successful composer and concert pianist.  While showing a debt to contemporary Europeans like Brahms, Grieg and Dvorak, Beach’s music is consistently engaging, melodic and smartly crafted. Her “Gaelic” Symphony was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra a year after its 1896 world premiere and Beach was the soloist in her Piano Concerto with the CSO a decade later. Other works include a Mass in E flat, Piano Quintet, Violin Sonata and over 150 songs.

The Amy Beach revival of the past decade has largely been invisible on the local scene, but the Orion Ensemble is doing its part this week by performing Beach’s Piano Quintet. The work is framed by Dvorak’s Miniatures for string trio and Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at PianoForte Studios and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston.; 630-628-9591.

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