About this work
At the age of 18 one of the most talented student musicians in the United States, Amy Marcey Cheney, married an established Boston physician, Henry Harris Aubry Beach and agreed to his request that, as a new society matron she should give up her concert piano career (except for an annual appearance or two). This had a consolation: Amy was now free to devote herself to musical composition with a freedom from material or commercial concerns, and wrote over three hundred published works, becoming the most performed American composer of her generation. Her annual recitals usually consisted entirely of her newest works.
The Ballad appeared at one of the first. It is a piano treatment of a song she had written to Robert Burns¹ "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose." It is not a straight transcription. She uses the keyboard to work out developmental possibilities not possible in a song. One of the verses of the Burns poem begins "Till a¹ the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi¹ the sun, I will luve thee stillŠ" Although this such a commonplace declaration that the literal meaning of the words is usually overlooked, it is actually an evocation of the end of the world. Beach does not spare any force in its powerful and passionate chords.