Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
S49 Ep22

Now Hear This "Amy Beach: American Romantic"

Premiere: 4/8/2022 | 00:53:54 | TV-PG | Closed Captioning Icon

Host Scott Yoo and his wife, flutist Alice Dade, perform the work of Romantic era classical composer Amy Beach at Festival Mosaic and uncover Beach’s many musical influences. Featuring performances of Beach’s works, the duo visits places Beach took inspiration from throughout her life, including an artist residency at MacDowell in New Hampshire.



About the Episode

Premieres Friday, April 8 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

Host Scott Yoo and his wife, flutist Alice Dade, perform the work of Romantic era classical composer Amy Beach at Festival Mosaic and uncover Beach’s many musical influences. Featuring performances of Beach’s works, the duo visits places Beach took inspiration from throughout her life, including an artist residency at MacDowell in New Hampshire, where she wrote “Hermit Thrush at Morn,” “Hermit Thrush at Evening” and more. Along the way, Yoo and Dade also explore the works of European female composers and musicians Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn and Louise Farrenc, and even stop to discover the music in the vineyards of California.

Places visited: Boston, Massachusetts; Peterborough, New Hampshire; New York, New York; San Luis Obispo, California

Follow celebrated violinist and conductor Scott Yoo as he travels the United States to uncover the musical influences of some of America’s most prominent composers — Amy Beach, Florence Price and Aaron Copland — in of the third season of Great Performances: Now Hear This. The documentary miniseries also spotlights two contemporary composers weaving the traditional music of their heritage into their compositions: Brazilian-born Sergio Assad and Indian American Reena Esmail. From coast to coast, the series shines a light on the immigrant experience as told through music, featuring local artists across musical genres including gospel, blues and more. Great Performances: Now Hear This Series 3 premieres Fridays, April 8-29 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app as part of #PBSForTheArts.

Yoo is the Chief Conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, Music Director of Festival Mozaic, Conductor of the Colorado College Music Festival and the Founder of the Medellín Festicámara, a chamber music and social program in Colombia. He has conducted the London Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Yomiuri Nippon Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony and San Francisco Symphony, among many others.
#PBSForTheArts is a multiplatform campaign that celebrates the arts in America. For more than 50 years, PBS has been the media destination for the arts, presenting dance, theater, opera, visual arts and concerts to Americans in every corner of the country. Previous Great Performances programs include Romeo & Juliet from the National Theatre, The Arts Interrupted, Coppelia, From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2022, Reopening: The Broadway Revival and The Conductor premiering Friday, March 25 on PBS. The collection of #PBSForTheArts programs is available at and the PBS Video app. Curated conversation and digital shorts are also available on PBS social media platforms using #PBSForTheArts.

Throughout its nearly 50-year history on PBS, Great Performances has provided an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. Showcasing a diverse range of artists from around the world, the series has earned 67 Emmy Awards and six Peabody Awards. The Great Performances website hosts exclusive videos, interviews, photos, full episodes and more. The series is produced by The WNET Group.

Great Performances 
is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.organd the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS PassportFAQ website.

Great Performances: Now Hear This was created by producer, writer and director Harry Lynch and is a production of Arcos Film + Music. Harry Lynch, Scott Yoo and Richard Lim are executive producers. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

Series funding for Great Performances is made possible by The Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Jody and John Arnhold,  The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, The Starr Foundation, the Seton J. Melvin, the Estate of Worthington Mayo-Smith, and Ellen and James S. Marcus. Funding for Now Hear This is also provided by The Iris and Joseph Pollock Fund, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, and the Jack Lawrence Charitable Trust.


♪♪♪ -I'm Scott Yoo. Next on 'Great Performances,' we begin our American edition of 'Now Hear This' with America's finest Romantic Era composer, Amy Beach.

We'll focus on Beach at my music festival.

♪♪♪ And we'll play other great female Romantic composers, like Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn.

She was an innovator.

Join me, my wife, Alice Dade, and some all-star musicians as we go off the beaten path... -This is the part of the property I wanted to show you guys.

-Oh, I wasn't expecting that! -[ Laughs ] -...and behind the scenes... ♪♪♪ -This is largest organ in New York City.

-Wow. -Look at the tiling. explore the contributions these women have made to music.

-Next time you're thinking of your list of heroines, think of all that she did.

-This is a first-rate genius.

This music was written 100 years ago, 200 years ago.

But it still speaks to our life now.

On the next 'Now Hear This: Amy Beach, American Romantic.'

♪♪♪ [ Instruments playing ] -For the finale of this year's Festival Mozaic, my summer music fest, we're playing Amy Beach.

♪♪♪ She's arguably America's greatest Romantic composer.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ We explored the music of Beach and other Romantic Era women composers in some unique ways.

And I'll show you how we did it with a behind-the-scenes tour.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Before the festival opens, we rehearse at the homes of festival supporters, not just the music, but also Notable Encounters, which are interactive guides to our featured composers -- like Amy Beach or her European Romantic counterpart, Clara Schumann.

With me are cellist Sophie Shao and pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ It's gonna be great. Bravo.

So, Ieva, this is your first time at the festival.

-Right. -And you have a script there that says 'Notable Encounter.'

-Yes. Tell me about it. -There it is.

So we've been doing this for about 15 years here.

The audience loves it.

It's not a concert, it's not a lecture.

It's something kind of in between.

-Right. -So obviously, we're rehearsing the piece.

But then we have to rehearse this script.

Then we have to deliver the script.

And then we have to deliver the concert.

So it's kind of four in one.

-So what do we rehearse?

We rehearse little segments that we're going to play for the -- -Exactly. So if you go to page two, you can see that there's musical examples, and they just keep going, page after page after page.

-I see, and they explain the music to them.

-Exactly. -And then when they hear the performance, then they really understand.

They have been inside of the piece of music.

-Exactly, exactly. -Great. That's brilliant.

-One thing I really like about this trio in particular -- The main melody... [ Playing violin ] First four notes of the first movement.

If you take the first three notes... [ Playing violin ] ...and then you change the last note... [ Playing violin ] ...and then you add ornaments... [ Playing violin ] Becomes the second movement. -Exactly.

-Even if you can't read music, you can still hear that. -Right. You can hear that.

-And then... [ Playing violin ] That's six notes.

If you take out three... [ Playing violin ] ...that becomes the third movement.

[ Playing violin ] -That's -- I didn't even think about that.

-That's brilliant, isn't it? -And then, this one, first three notes of the third movement... [ Playing violin ] ...change the second note.

[ Playing violin ] -That's brilliant. -So she's taken three notes and made one movement, and then a second movement, and then a third movement, and then a fourth movement.

Out of three notes! -Right.

-Okay, we enjoy that as professional musicians.

But even the layman will get it.

This is a first-rate genius.

And if people get that... -Right. -...we've done our job.

Then we'll play the fourth movement for them, and that'll be the end of the event.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Amy Beach identified with European Romantic composers like Clara Schumann, even though she was born in America, in the woods of New Hampshire.

She returned here throughout her life to find inspiration in nature, a staple of Romantic composers, frequently to MacDowell, an artist retreat founded by another composer, Edward MacDowell.

Ieva, my wife, Alice, and I asked MacDowell's director, David Macy, about Beach's time here.

-Well, little has changed here since 1921, when Amy Beach first came to MacDowell.

And she, over the next 20 summers, came here 18 times.

-Oh, wow. -This was her place.

And she came and was given the same studio every summer.

So, I have a feeling that she liked this one.

-Hm. -Hm.

-And this place is steeped in nature.

The birdsong and the foliage would've been the same in the year she was here as this time when we're visiting right now.


-Well, why don't we go inside.

-Great. -Come on.

These pine tablets are what are affectionately known as 'tombstones.'

-[ Chuckles ] -Everyone who's worked in this studio and every other studio at MacDowell signs and dates the times that they've worked here and say what discipline they're working in.

-Right. -Wow.

-But this is not a photograph of her signature?

-No. -That is her signature.

-No, no, it's her and in sequence, shuffled in between all of the other artists who worked in this space.

-Do we know what she wrote -- what pieces she wrote while she was here?

-Well, maybe two of the most well-known pieces that she wrote were 'Hermit Thrush at Morn.'

-'Morn,' yes, of course. -And 'Hermit Thrush at Evening.'

-Of course. -Do you play those?

-Yes! Yes, I do.

-Maybe we could hear some of them.

-Absolutely. -That would be fabulous.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Something that I have to remind myself of is that Amy Beach grew up listening to Brahms and Tchaikovsky.

In fact -- -Who were still alive.

-They were still alive! -That's right.

-So it makes sense that she's known as a Romantic composer.

It's in her blood to write that way.

And, David, you were saying something about the -- -Yeah, Edward MacDowell was also a Romantic composer.

-Okay. -They would've been more or less peers in the late 1800s.


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Isn't it beautiful? -I love that.

I've never heard that. -It's beautiful.

Actually, Amy Beach writes here, and in the score, it's notated that these bird calls are exact notations of hermit thrush songs, in the original key, an octave lower.

'Obtained at MacDowell colony.'

-Oh, that's beautiful.

And then what's your left hand doing, you think?

-My left hand is accompanying, sort of setting the scene, crossing the horizon, the morning mist.

-Mm-hmm. I hear that.

-Yeah. Things are still and quiet, and the solitude of the bird is in the right hand.


This piece is Romantic not only because there is nature, but, I mean, just the sound, the language that's used here is Romantic.

-Right. It captures a feeling, a very clear feeling.

-It's free also. -True.

It's colorful. -Mm-hmm.

Just like the 'Romance'... -Yes! -...'For Violin and Piano.'

-Oh, do you and Scott want to play that?

-Yes. -Beautiful.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Early in her career, Beach could not go to Europe to study Romantic composition.

So she bought German and French books on the subject and translated them herself so she could learn to write like a Romantic.

In many works, like this early romance, she certainly sounds like one.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Fanny Mendelssohn was a German Romantic composer and the sister of Felix.

I'm at another festival patron's house to work on her Notable Encounter, with Maurycy Banaszek, Grace Park, Jonah Kim, and Abi Kralik.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Okay.

That's fantastic. Fantastic.

This is -- This is in great shape.

Can you get out your scripts?

So, in the beginning, I'm going to talk about Fanny and Felix's education.

They had kind of an out-of-control, over-the-top education.

Then we're going to play Felix's 'Opus 12' quartet, beginning, and then compare it to Fanny's quartet, the one you're playing.

There are excerpts from Mendelssohn's 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' Beethoven's 'Fifth Symphony.'

-[ Playing cello ] -Exactly.

Then we're going to end with the octet.

-But, Scott, it has eight parts. How are we gonna do that?

-So, I'm going to fake the third violin part, the fourth violin part, and the second viola part.

Jonah, you're going to play the second cello part, which kind of takes care of the first cello part.

It's not going to be perfect, but the audience is going to get it.

We're going to do a demonstration of Mendelssohn's octet, but there are only four of them, so I'm going to add a little bit of corn starch to their gravy so that... [ Laughter ] This is Felix Mendelssohn's octet... played by five people.

[ Laughter ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -Bravo!

-Now, that's Felix's best shot at fire power.

I would argue that Fanny's quartet has equal, if not more, fire power at the end of piece.

Listen to the end of the Mendelssohn -- the Mendelssohn quartet.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Bravo!

[ Cheering and applause ] -Bravo. -Oh, what?


-Amy Beach began her career in Boston.

Many American composers at the time were looking for an American sound, different from the European Romantic style.

Beach joined their quest, in her own way, beginning with her 'Gaelic Symphony.'

♪♪♪ We went to one of Boston's best Irish pubs to talk to Irish-American musicians Caitlin Lynch and Maura Scanlin, and 'Celtic Sojourn' radio host Brian O'Donovan.

If you're Polish, you can take a mazurka and turn it into a piano piece, and maybe your name is Chopin.

-Mm-hmm. -Right?

Or Czech music, and your name is Dvorák.

But, you know, if you're American, we don't really have our own sort of national folk traditions.

So what Dvorák said when he was the director of the National Conservatory -- it's now defunct -- he said, 'You should really draw upon American folk music as your inspiration.

And by American folk music, we mean spirituals and Native American music.'

And then later, Amy Beach replied, I think.

-Yeah, she totally did, saying, you know, 'I don't know these musics.

I don't know the Native American song,' or, 'I don't know the Negro spirituals.'

And that took a lot of guts for her to do that because, I mean, some of the reviews you read about her music, you know, it talks about how, 'Well, I've heard some women being able to write music, but I'm not sure that they should.'

Things like that, and she still wrote a response.

-Yeah! -To Dvorák!

-But not just reviews of her music.

I mean, there were, like, famous psychologists at the time saying that a woman didn't have the capability -- the strength -- to be a composer.

-I wonder if the reason she wrote a Gaelic symphony is because there was such a huge Irish population -- or there was a huge Irish population in Boston.

-It's fairly well documented that the Irish started coming here way back.

So she would've been surrounded by a teeming immigrant population of Catholic Irish, where she gets the influences from -- the airs, the dance music of the time -- and incorporates in just what must have been an extraordinary time to live in this city.

-Well, I think this is Amy Beach really saying, 'I think that Irish-American music American music, and I want to try my hand bringing this music into more Romantic...' -Context.

-'...Romantic context.' Yeah.

-So who wants to go to hear some music?

-Great, let's play some music. -Let's do it.


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ [ Whooping ] [ Laughter ] -Joey, I've never seen one of those things.

What is that thing?

-These are uilleann pipes.

They're the national bagpipe of Ireland.

'Uilleann' is actually the Irish Gaelic word for elbow.

-Interesting. -Yeah, and I use both of them.

On my right elbow is a very old pump called a bellows -- we call it a bellows.

And it just has very easy intake valves.

And instead of blowing it up, like most bagpipes, with your mouth, we pump it and fill the bag up with our elbow.

And then with our other elbow, we press to make the sounds.

[ Pipes toot ] Basically.

-So you can have pneumonia and still play the uilleann pipes?

-You see it before you.

[ Laughter ] They say that it's a perfect bagpipe because you can drink and smoke when you play it.

But you won't see any of that today.

[ Laughter ] -Brian, my understanding is that the 'Gaelic Symphony' has a folk tune in every movement.

-Yeah, it seems to have.

And one that really struck me was one that has this old lyrical quality to it.

It's also a song.

And that would've been very common back in Amy Beach's time, is people singing these sad songs, sad songs of home.

And this one is called 'An Goirtín Eornan,' which is its Gaelic name, which means a little field of barley.

-Little field of barley? -Little field of barley.

So, you can imagine an immigrant community thinking back to home, like the farm house, or maybe in the field of barley.

-Homesickness. -Exactly -- homesickness.

-Do you know this one? -Yes, we do.

-Okay. -One, two, three.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -I arranged a small version of the second movement of the 'Gaelic Symphony.'

Though it's based on an Irish tune, it still sounds pretty Romantic to me.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Another thing that happens behind the scenes at the festival?

Whenever the musicians aren't rehearsing or performing, they go do something fun in the area.

Since we're in wine country, it's often that.

Alice, Kaitlyn Resler, and Liz Koch Tiscione went to visit Jordan Fiorentini at Epoch Estates.

-[ Laughs ] -Alright, this is the part of the property I wanted to show you guys.

-Great. -Wow.

-Oh, it's beautiful! -It's so beautiful!

-Looking out over the vineyards, it was actually the heart of the property once owned by a famous Polish pianist and politician named Ignacy Paderewski.

-What?! -Oh, my gosh!

-Oh, my gosh! [ Laughter ] I wasn't expecting that!

-So, did he make his wine here? -Actually, no.

Paderewski grew his grapes here, but at the time, he hired the York brothers on York Mountain Winery to be his wine makers.

And luckily, we were able to purchase the York Mountain Winery to be our tasting room and winery location.

-Oh, wow.

-So we're actually going to go there right now.

-Cool! Alright! -Very exciting.


♪♪♪ -Jordan was recently named wine maker of the year for the region, and is known for her skill in blending wine.

♪♪♪ -Don't want to get wine on you.

So, today we're going to sample single varietal wines that we made in the 2020 harvest, and we're going to talk about blending.

So, yeah, what we'll do now is just go through and taste each one individually.

I like to smell them all first.

♪♪♪ What do you guys think you want to make after tasting through these?

-I think it'd be interesting, like, the first and the last ones, just because they feel so different, like, when they hit your tongue.

And I don't -- I have no idea, like, how the combination of those two would affect the taste and the feel of it.

-Yes! I love that. But the idea you had is, like, okay, so take the heavier Syrah that doesn't have as much acid, probably, and has, like, thicker texture, to the more lighter wine, so you're going to add acid and you're going to add freshness to this heavier wine.

And then, like, maybe you could just add a little bit of the Mourvèdre to, like, glue it together.

So we could try, like, an almost, you know, 40/40/20, or, like, 45/45/10.

[ Metallic clang ] -This is so cool. -I know!

I want to do this at home!

[ Laughs ] -Well, this is the... What should we call this one?

-So, there's this word that flutes and oboes use called 'flobo.'

[ Laughter ] Which means, you know, you're really blending well, especially in orchestra or in chamber music.

And I feel like this reminds me of that.

-Yeah. -It's so awesome.

And the horn would be the Mourvèdre in the -- in the wind quintet. -Yes.

-Holding us up, blending the sounds all together.

-That's good! -We need a word for all three of them, and that's what we can call the blend.


[ Laughter ] This is our newest blend, Florbo.

[ Laughter ] -It's really good. Good job, guys.

-It's good.

I feel like a better musician already.

[ Laughter ] -Do you find that women make a different wine?

Like, a more feminine wine?

-[Speaking indistinctly] that women are asking -- [ Laughter ] I get that question a lot.

-So tell us about men and women.

-No, people are always like, 'What's it like to be a woman wine maker?'

And my whole atti-- Like, I always say, 'I don't know.' -'I don't know.'

-'I haven't made wine as a man before, so I can't really speak to that.'

But I always say that, you know, your sensibilities with flavor and your impression of wine is very influenced by who you are -- like, where you grew up, the foods you ate.

And just who you are.

And the gender you are affects who you are.

Does your music sound different because you're...? -Well... -Do you get that question?

-I don't know. I allow myself to get emotional.

-Yeah, yes! -A lot.

I mean, so do men, of course, but I'm always thinking of the emotional side.

I don't know if that's because I'm a woman, or because that's who I am. -Who you are.

But, yeah, that's the same thing.

I get emotional, too, about wine.

But, um, yeah, I mean, all the stuff that went into us all becoming who we are is then in the art that you create.


♪♪♪ [ Both speaking indistinctly ] ♪♪♪ -At a different winery, we staged another Notable Encounter, this one on the French Romantic composer and virtuoso pianist Louise Farrenc.

♪♪♪ Though almost unknown today, she wrote spectacular music.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ We're joined by Conrad Cornelison on bassoon, and the great clarinetist Burt Hara.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ And then I think that's perfect.

It sounds fantastic.

So, I think the most important thing we can deliver to the audience in this Notable is to show the audience how groundbreaking Louise Farrenc was.

So, obviously, you all know that this is the first piano and wind sextet ever.

They don't know that.

Louise Farrenc had the foresight to understand that this combination of instruments -- four woodwind instruments and one brass instrument, and then this gigantic piano -- would sound good together.

She was an innovator.

And we have to show them that this piece is kind of a hybrid of Classical language.

This is written in 1830s.

This is like in the middle of Lizst territory, and she's writing like it's Mozart.

But then she incorporates Romantic elements.

And we have to show that because they don't know what that is.

We're gonna play Mozart and Farrenc, but I'm not going to tell you which one is which.

So, this is behind Door Number One.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Beautiful music.

Okay, it could be Mozart.

Door Number Two.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Which one's the Mozart, which one's the Farrenc?

Who say the first one is Mozart?

Raise your hand.

Who says the second one is the Mozart?

Ah, good, I did it in that order to fool you.

So, the second one -- the second one is the Farrenc.

And you raised your hand -- a lot of you raised your hand because you thought the second one sounded better, right?

-Yes, and it does. -Yes.

-Yeah. -Yeah.

[ Indistinct conversations ] -And by the way, folks, the first one is one of Mozart's best pieces.

-Yeah. -But that's showing you -- that's showing you where Farrenc is.

She's a master composer herself.

It's just nobody knows about her.

It doesn't mean she's not great.

Then if you can talk about Louise Farrenc and what kind of a groundbreaking woman she was, then I think we'll totally blow the audience away.

-Sure. So, I don't know if you guys know, but Louise Farrenc, she -- she was the first female professor of piano, and of anything, at the Paris Conservatory.

Then she realized, 'Wait a second, I'm paid half as much as my male...' [ Audience chattering ] That was happening back then, too, ladies, yes.

So what does she do at this point?

She writes a piece that makes her so famous that they give her the same pay as her male colleagues.

-Bravo! [ Cheers and applause ] -That's amazing.

And can you imagine fighting that fight in the early 1800s, mid-1800s?

-Wow. -No! No way.

So next time you're thinking of your list of heroines, include Louise Farrenc, because think of all that she did.

Awesome. [ Applause ] ♪♪♪ -After Amy Beach's husband died, she finally went to Europe on a long concert tour, then moved to New York.

Here she became sort of the composer in residence for one of the city's most spectacular churches.

♪♪♪ Wow.

♪♪♪ -Look at the tiling. -Yeah, they did it all by hand.


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Paolo Bordignon is the Juilliard-trained music director here.

I never heard of this piece.

'Prelude on an Old Folk Tune'? She is a genius. -Yeah.

-It's based on an Irish folk tune called 'The Fair Hills of Eire O!'

And it's a wonderful, beautiful little pentatonic melody.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -That sounds very Irish. -It does, yeah.

It just uses the five notes.

And yet from those five notes, she turns it into this beautiful, symphonic tone poem.

-She's a genius.

-Brilliantly done. -Just wow.

-Really, really brilliantly done.

And it allows you to explore some of the colors of the instrument.

-And can we just talk about this organ for a second?

I mean, I've seen organs, but this is an organ.

-This is the largest organ in New York City.

It has 12,422 pipes.

You know, so the smallest are the size of a straw, and then the largest are the size of a tree.

And the lowest pipes also make the foundation of the building shake.

So you really get the sound from everywhere.

-I don't mean to denigrate the organ, but to me, this is such great music.

It's almost a shame to let only one person play it.

-You couldn't be more right. So, this -- -It should be a -- It should be a symphonic work.

-Exactly. It suggests the concert hall and an expansiveness and a huge range of colors and a large audience listening for it.

The extraordinary thing about playing it on organ is that it was written for this very instrument.

-Mm. -Wow.

-When Mrs. Beach moved from Boston to New York, her new church home was in fact St. Bartholomew's.

And most of her choral music written from 1915 until the end of her life was written for this very ensemble.

And we'll hear them now.

-Great! -Oh, that's great.

[ Singing in English and Latin ] ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -♪ Have mercy upon us ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Alice, Liz, and both Kaitlyns went for a brown bag wine tasting with sommelier Katie Gebauer.

-They are -Literally in brown bags.

-Okay! -Yes.

-How do know what's what?

-I put them in the brown bags!

[ Laughter ] -They all look exactly the same.

-Numbers at the bottom.

-Oh, okay.

-So what I'd like to suggest is, don't say anything thing yet.

-Okay. -Make your own descriptors, your own, you know, story on your piece of paper.

You can even talk about it in, um, music terminology.

-Mm, absolutely. -Mm.

-That would be interesting. -Yeah.

-Oh, I'm going link them to, like, composers.

-There you go. That's perfect. -Oh, composers!

-Yeah. Yeah, why don't you do that.

-Ooh. That actually feels a lot easier to try to describe it in musical terms.

Like, okay, now I know what to do.

-I like that. [ Laughs ] -This definitely seems very similar to just our whole audition process.

-Oh, totally!

-The whole blind aspect is, like, exactly the same.

So, for an audition, normally the committee will sit behind a screen.

So they can't actually see who's coming onstage.

-Interesting. -Yeah.

-So have you all done blind additions?

-Oh, yeah. -Really?

-That was most of my 20s.

[ Laughter ] -It's really interesting, though, because part of what we do is so based on -- like, in a concert setting, so based on the give and -- the energy between us and the audience and sharing that music.

-Absolutely. -And when you walk into an empty hall, onto an empty stage, and you just see a curtain... They put carpet down on the stage floor so you can't hear if someone's wearing high heels.

-It's also, you're kind of sitting far enough away so that if you're a wind player and you're breathing, you can't hear if it's a man... -That's a big one.

-Wow! -...or a woman.

-Oh, my gosh, all these elements I never even thought of.

-Yeah. -Mm-hmm.

-So, how do you think that's changed music?

-After they started the blind audition process, you saw the orchestras in this country start to fill up with women. -Oh, wonderful.

-That's how more and more women have gotten into orchestras.

-Mm-hmm. It makes sense.

So, shall we start with glass number one?

-Okay. -Yeah, I mean, I would just take your time looking at the color, smelling it. -Oh, it smells so good.


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Ooh, I have the perfect composer for it.

-Ooh! [ Laughter ] ♪♪♪ -I love that you're relating this to music in your descriptors.

-I love that you thought of that idea!

-It helps. -It totally helps.

-Yeah. Because some people are like, 'Oh, I don't know what to say. I don't know.'

-Yeah. -And they blank out.

And so relating it to something that you are very familiar with and comfortable with, it's like, 'Oh, yeah, sure.'

-Are we moving on to -- -Ooh, I'm going to do key signatures too. -Yeah, we can move on.

-Oh, my God! -Oh, that is so good!

-So good. Okay.

-Smelling is number one when it comes to wine.

-It's like, when you go to a concert, part of your experience is the vibration in your chair.

-Yes! Uh-huh. -Yeah.

-Alright. -So, here are our bachelors.

Or bachelorettes.

And now we're going to find out more about them!

-Yes! So let's start at number one.


-So, this is... 100% Pinot noir.

-Yay! I guessed that.

-Oh! -You did?! -You did?! -Who was your composer?

-Yes! -My composer was Mozart.

-Ooh! -Ooh!

-Because the wine was, like, super bright and light and fun, but also, I think, very refined.

And Mozart to me represents all of those qualities.

-Yeah. -Like, it could be... Like, to play Mozart is -- it's, like, so transparent and it's so hard to do.

But if you do it well, it sounds like...childhood.

You know what I mean? Like, it's, like, so sparkly.

-I love it. -I totally agree.

It had the brightness... -I love the descriptor!

-The brightness with also the depth, which I think is, like, distinctly Mozart.

I really love that. -Yeah, yeah.

-This is a 100% tempranillo.

-Oh! -Oh, interesting.

-Spanish grape variety.

-This is like the least Spanish composer you could have possibly... I picked Bruckner.

-Oh, my God! I did, too!

-You did?! -[ Squeals ] [ Laughter ] I can't believe that!

-Bruckner! -Oh, my God!

-Who is it? -Bruckner!

-Why did you choose Bruckner?

-I chose Bruckner because I -- There wasn't enough smell, and I'm realizing that smell is really important to me.

-Mm-hmm. -And I just felt like, okay, this would be a good everyday wine if you want something a little heavier, but it wasn't very complex to me.

And I missed the complexity.

I love that we both chose Bruckner.

-That's amazing. I was wondering when that was going to happen.

And I was waiting for the moment we -- somebody had a match.

-Isn't it interesting how all arts kind of bring people together?

It just depends on what you relate to, right?

I mean, I love film and I love music, and now I'm beginning to love wine, and we can all relate on some level to this in a different way.

And I feel like I know all of you on a different level right now.

-Absolutely. -It's more intimate, isn't it?

-Yes. -Yes! Very.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -We worked on our last Notable Encounter with Dariusz Skoraczewski and Maureen Nelson, this one on Amy Beach.

Later in her career, she tried to take Dvorák's recommendation to bring Native American music into her work.

♪♪♪ Sounds great, yeah.

We always start with music, so we're going to start with that, and Alice is going talk about Amy Beach.

-Because I've been -- I'm not in that first 36 measures.

So if I told you that, by the age of one, I had memorized 40 songs and I could sing them by heart, would you be impressed?

-Yes. -It's pretty impressive.

I don't tell many people, so I thought I would share tonight.

[ Laughter ] So, by the age of four, I was starting to compose my own music.

By the age of six, I was performing piano, and -- well, actually, at 16, I performed as a soloist with the Boston Symphony.

-Wow. -Mm-hmm.

No, this is all a lie.

You all know this, come on.

[ Laughter ] I didn't do any of that.

This is all Amy Beach's life.

-Oh! -Isn't that incredible?

-Well, and she's -- You know, she's a giant in American music.

She's really, really important.

So, of course, with these Notable Encounters, I always try to make analogies to things that an audience that can't read music can hear.

So, what I thought we would do is play Mozart variations to 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.'

And, um, you know, Caitlin, you and I, let's play the theme.

♪♪♪ Of course, that's 'Twinkle, Twinkle,' and here's the first variation.

♪♪♪ And here's the sixth variation.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ That's a good one.

For me this is kind of what tests a composer's mettle.

How can you take something as simple and, let's face it, as banal as 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' and make variation after variation after variation after variation of interesting music?

-Mm-hmm. -Well, that's why his name is Mozart.

[ Laughter ] He was a genius.

I think the reason why so many composers wrote themes and variations is that it is universal to the human experience.

Every life is a theme in variations.

There have been billions of lives, each one different from the last.

They all end with a death, they all begin with a birth.

Those variations are the spice of life.

This is why classical music is so important.

This music was written 100 years ago, 200 years ago, 300 years ago, but it still speaks to our life now.

The theme and variations is the most fundamental expression of what it means to be a human.

Amy Beach also wrote a theme and variations.

She based it on a piece that she wrote years earlier, and it's called 'An Indian Lullaby.'

And as a special treat for you, in order to elicit more donations to the festival, I'm going to [ Laughter ] Here we go.

♪ Sleep in the forest bed ♪ ♪ Where silent falls the tread ♪ ♪ On the needles, soft and deep ♪ ♪ Of the pine ♪ ♪ Of the pine ♪ -Whoo-hoo! -Thank you. Thank you.

[ Applause ] This music is Indianist because, 'A,' it uses this funny scale, and it uses the flute, which is the most common pitched Native American instrument.

And what I want you to do, when you have the tune, I'd like for you to stand up.

-Oh. -Oh.

-And, Dariusz, I mean, you -- you're so tall, you're already standing up practically.

[ Laughter ] Why don't you -- Why don't you just kind of... Just -- Just, yeah. -Make myself present.

-So, Maureen, you start.


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -Working with a Native American sounding theme and instrument pushed Amy Beach in a bold new direction.

♪♪♪ But these experiments were the exception, and she'd soon find her way back to her favorite style.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ We made a last stop at Boston's Athenaeum to play what many consider Beach's masterpiece.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Great. I played very poorly, but you didn't, fortunately.

-[ Laughs ] -This is fun to play, to lay into, and all these moments where it's like, where we just -- we're playing in octaves or unison, it's like, I don't know, it feels good.

-Those are group moments, right, where it feels like we all are traveling, and we're all arriving at the same time and embracing these big... -Yes.

-That sounds like Dvorák to me. -Yeah.

-The same style of writing.

She did the Gaelic thing, the Irish thing.

She did the Indian thing with the flute quintet.

But, really, she is a straight-ahead Romantic composer.

That's what she is -- just born in America.

-Yeah. -You want to try letter P?


♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ -In the end, Beach loved Romantic music too much to leave it behind.

And who can blame her?

Millions of people today still feel the same.

So she embraced it.

And when she was writing at her best, she was the towering equal of the greatest European Romantics, including Dvorák.

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ Beach would leave it to the next great American woman composer to define an American sound.

But that's a story for another 'Now Hear This.'

♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.