Hyperion Records

Concert Variations on 'The Star-Spangled Banner', Op 23

'Organ Fireworks, Vol. 4' (CDA66605)
Organ Fireworks, Vol. 4
Track 3 on CDA66605 [8'57] Archive Service

Concert Variations on 'The Star-Spangled Banner', Op 23
The Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the USA, the inspirational words of which were written in Baltimore by Francis Scott Key in 1814, and intended for the tune to which they are now always sung. This tune itself was written in England for the Anacreontic Society of London by a singer and composer of catches and glees called John Stafford Smith (1750–1836), the original song being ‘Anacreon in Heaven’.

Dudley Buck was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and travelled to Europe to study music in Leipzig, Dresden and Paris. On returning to the USA he toured as a concert organist and also held a succession of church organist appointments, at St James Chicago, St Paul’s Boston, and at several churches in Brooklyn where he settled in his mid-thirties. He was assistant conductor of the Theodore Thomas Orchestra, and composed mainly vocal music including The Legend of Columbus and Paul Revere’s Ride.

These concert variations became a very popular item in organ recitals and consist of the theme, four variations, and a fughetta. The third variation is noteworthy in terms of the pedal virtuosity required, and the writing suggests that the composer knew his Bach fugues. The fourth variation follows convention by being cast in the minor key, but departs from it with a sly enharmonic modulation for the repeated part of the tune. The finale works out some of the fugal possibilities of the tune before the inevitable triumphant metamorphosis, proclaiming the spirit of those who kept the American flag flying over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in the face of the British bombardment in 1814 and so inspired Francis Scott Key.

from notes by Ian Carson © 1992

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA66605 track 3
Recording date
28 February 1992
Recording venue
St Bartholomew's Church, New York, USA
Recording producer
Paul Spicer
Recording engineer
Christopher Greenleaf
Hyperion usage
  1. Organ Fireworks, Vol. 4 (CDA66605)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: July 1992
    Deletion date: October 2012
    Archive Service
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