Friday, March 05, 2010

Beach, the female symphonist

The title best female composer of all time should go to Sofia Gubaidulina, who has featured before in this blog. However, if we restrict it to female composer of symphonies, American Amy Beach (1867-1944) would get my vote - even though she composed only one. Her Gaelic symphony from 1896 ranks amongst the best late romantic examples of the genre. The 42-minute four-movement Symphony makes use of Irish tunes as well as original tunes that she wrote in the style of Irish folk songs, melodic and immediately attractive. On this Naxos disc, it is accompanied by her other major orchestral work, the 1899 piano concerto, which clocks in at close to 40 minutes as well. A luscious grand romantic concerto recalling the likes of Grieg and MacDowell, which reminds us that Ms. Beach herself was a celebrated concert pianist in those days. The performances by the Nashville Symphony under Schermerhorn, with pianist Alan Feinberg, are exemplary, as is the recording. An essential disc of an essential composer.