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