Festival Overture on the American National Air "The Star Spangled Banner" by Dudley Buck (1839-1909)
I've just published a new edition of this neglected work by a 19th century American master. I thought it would be a good idea to make a GPO realization from the score, so I did, and here it is. (This is an automatic realization generated directly from Finale 2008, unedited by me, so don't expect too much. If I ever have time, I'd like to do a better version.)
If you'd like more information about the work, here are some notes I wrote for the inside cover.
DUDLEY BUCK (1839-1909) was one of the leading names in 19th-century American concert music. Remembered today for a handful of choral songs and organ works, he was known during his life for his large-scale secular cantatas, and also composed two operas, orchestral works, and solo songs.
Buck was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to a family that traced its roots back to the original settlers of Wethersfield in 1647. His father, a successful businessman and the owner of a steamship line, hoped that his son would eventually enter the family business; however, Dudley’s musical aptitude eventually impressed his father so much that he agreed to send him to Europe to complete his training. He enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied harmony and composition with Moritz Hauptmann and Ernst Richter, piano with Louis Plaidy and Ignaz Moscheles, and organ with Johann Schneider. The organ would become Buck’s primary instrument, and upon his return to Hartford, he began his career as the organist at the North Congregational Church.
Buck moved to Chicago in 1869, only to lose his home, his library, and all his manuscripts in the great fire of 1871. He began anew in Boston, as organist at St. Paul’s Church. During this time, he wrote his first successful large-scale compositions, The Legend of Don Munio and The 46th Psalm. In 1875 he settled in Brooklyn where he continued his career as the organist and choirmaster of Holy Trinity Church, and also accepted a post as Theodore Thomas’s assistant conductor. He would remain in Brooklyn until he retired in 1903.
The Festival Overture on the American National Air “The Star-Spangled Banner” was composed, or at least premiered, in 1879. It is in most respects a conventional concert overture in sonata-allegro form, incorporating The Star-Spangled Banner (not formally adopted as the national anthem until 1931) as the second theme. It is a testament to Buck’s compositional skill that the resulting work never sounds contrived or gimmicky, but stands on its own as a serious, well-crafted work, expertly developed and brilliantly orchestrated.
After a few performances in the 1870s and 80s, the overture was forgotten for several decades. The manuscript was sent to G. Schirmer in the hope that it would be published, but that hope came to nothing. Schirmer donated the score to the Library of Congress in 1951, where it remained unnoticed until 1968, when Karl Krueger rediscovered it and arranged for it to be recorded. A reproduction of Buck’s holograph manuscript was published unchanged in Volume 9 of Three Centuries of American Music, edited by Sam Dennison (G. K. Hall & Co., 1992). The present edition is based on that manuscript.