Music of John Parsons Beach this weekend. No idea who he is? Well, according to Nicholas Slonimsky’s Seventh Edition of Baker’s Biographica Dictionary Of Musicians, John Parsons Beach: (Gloversville, N.Y. Oct. 11, 1877 – Pasadena, CA – Nov. 6, 1953) – He studied piano and the New England Conservatory in Boston. Went to Europe to study with Gédalge in Paris and Malipiero in Venice – returned to the U.S., studied further with Charles Martin Loeffler – took various teaching jobs and finally settled in Pasadena. He composed a reasonably substantial amount; an Opera was premiered in Paris in 1915. Orleans Alley, which was successfully introduced in Philadelphia on April 22, 1927, under Leopold Stokowski. It was subtitled “New Orleans street cries at dawn” and briefly enjoyed popularity as a concert work programmed in conjunction with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. To this end, Beach composed a Louisiana Rhapsody (1930); his other orchestral works include the ballets The Phantom Satyr (1925) and Mardi Gras (1926). He also composed a number of songs and chamber works.
Despite his limited success, Beach seems to have altogether stopped composing by 1930. From that point until his death in Pasadena at age 76, Beach held a number of minor teaching positions in colleges throughout the United States. His manuscripts, encompassing only 38 works, reside at the New York Public Library. As John Parsons Beach was born in the 1870s, he belongs to the first generation of American modernist composers, along with Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, and Arthur Fickénscher.
So that gives you some background on this mystery composer, whose work was part of an episode for the radio series Music Of The New World and broadcast on January 20, 1944. As for recordings; the only one that appears to be in the catalogue is a collection of New Orleans Miniatures for piano on Spotify. Orleans Alley hasn’t seen the light of day, nor have his other works.
There you have it – hit the play button and enjoy.