Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (1867-1944), also known as Mrs. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, was a gifted only child raised in New Hampshire. After the death of her husband she traveled to Europe before returning to New York where she set up home. During this time she was inspired by some of the sounds that she'd heard whilst growing up near the New Hampshire woodlands. This is particularly the case with the two compositions included here, “A Hermit Thrush At Eve” and “At Morn, Op. 92, Nos 1 & 2." The captivating sound of the bird’s song, at two separate times of the day, provides a delightful composition which is again excellently performed by Ms Schempf.
The New Hampshire theme is continued for the next selection, “Woodland Sketches Op. 51,” which was written by another New Yorker, Edward Alexander MacDowell (1860-1908). In 1877 the young pianist had traveled to Paris where he was a classmate of Debussy. From there he spent time in both Stuttgart and Frankfurt before finally returning to America, also living in New Hampshire. Once again, the rich woodland area provides the inspiration behind this wonderful four-part piece.
Lastly, we have one of America’s most renowned composers, Aaron Copland (1900-1990). In 1920 Copland also went to France where he heard works by Saint-Saens, Ravel, Stravinsky, and others. Upon his return he lived in Bedford, New York and, finding himself in need of new avenues, adopted a more experimental approach to his work. He spent six months during 1929 writing his “Piano Variations.”
This well chosen, expertly performed set perfectly represents some often overlooked American music that at turns remains a rewarding and refreshing experience.
An American Mirage is available through MSR Classics who boast a large and eclectic catalogue of releases on their website.