Twilight (op. 2, no. 1)(1891)
Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (or Mrs. H.H.A. Beach) was probably the first woman composer to gain attention for writing successfully in the large forms of the 19th century: symphony, concerto, oratorio, and chamber music. Yet it is in her songs and solo piano music that we glimpse a more private and intimate Beach. Of the 120 songs she produced, only a handful are known to the general public.
The audio recording, provided in the audio player to the right, features Thomas Hampson, baritone, and Craig Rutenberg, piano. This song was recorded for Instant Encore as part of American Public Media's Performance Today series, presented by Classical Minnesota Public Radio. To listen, please click on the track name itself. You can download a recording of this entire recital for free through the Instant Encore website with the download code: THSOA2009.
For text settings, Beach utilized works by a diverse assortment of poets, including Shelley, Browning, Tennyson, Shakespeare, Hugo, Burns, Goethe, Heine, Schiller, and her own husband, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach.
“Twilight” is the first of Three Songs, Op. 2; the others two songs of this set are “When Far From Her” and “Empress of Night.” All three poems are by Dr. Beach, and the settings date from 1887, two years after the couple was married.
by Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach
No sun to warm
The darkening cloud of mist,
The steamy earth sends up
A veil of gray and damp
To kiss the green and tender leaves
And leave its cool imprint
In limpid pearls of dew
The blackened trunks and boughs
In ghostly silhouette
Mark grimly in the coming eve
The shadows of the past. All sounds are stilled,
The birds have hushed themselves to rest
And night comes fast, to drop her pall
Till morn brings life to all.