The Classical Station Celebrates Women’s Equality Day

By Bethany Tillerson

Photo portrait of Amy BeachWomen’s Equality Day is August 26! To celebrate the role of women throughout musical history, we’ve decided to focus our attention on Amy Beach, a renowned American composer in the early 20th century. Beach was a talented musician, playing and composing by the age of 4, and is most known for works like Variations on Balkan Themes and her Gaelic Symphony–one of the first symphonic pieces composed by a woman.

Amy Beach, growing up in the late 19th century and early 20th century, was one of few prominent women in music, performing her own songs at a time when it was unusual for a woman to do so. Though she is most known as a composer, with her music being performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Handel and Haydn Society, Beach was a frequent performer, becoming one of the first American female musicians to earn acclaim in Europe for her performances. Beach was often praised by critics for defying current stereotypes–women’s compositions were often seen as lacking deep musical theory or structure, and Amy Beach made a point of carefully constructing her pieces.

Her masterpiece, Variation on Balkan Themes, is the perfect example. At many points, the Variations exhibit the classic lyricism of the Romantic style they took inspiration from, but they are made unique by the inspiration taken from second-hand Balkan nationalist songs, as well as the emotions she expresses through each variation. The pieces move from a dreamy melancholy atmosphere to an upbeat and jovial reworking of the same themes, but proceed to a darker feel toward the end. Listen to Variations on Balkan Themes this Women’s Equality Day in celebration of this extremely accomplished musician!