Perhaps a bit late for 4th Of July festivities this year, but nonetheless a sample of Americana in the form of American Classical Music of the late 19th Century. Dudley Buck was a Composer and Organist whose work was primarily Church Music, but like most composers at the time, tried very hard to put a Made-in-America stamp on the works he was producing.
And like so much of the work during this period, it borrowed heavily on European influences, while looking for a national identity. In the meantime, themes of American mythology and Patriotic proclamations were the basis for many works, including this one, which was composed for the 1885 Chicago Exhibition, based on a Cantata celebrating the life of Christopher Columbus. He was also commissioned for the Centenary celebrations in Philadelphia in 1876. Buck was one of two composers who were commissioned by the City of Philadelphia for the Centenary, the other was John Knowles Paine, who was for the development of the American Symphony as Buck was for the development of the Organ as a Concert recital instrument in the 1800s.
This piece, from the Cantata The Voyage Of Columbus, is based on Washington Irving‘s Life of Columbus. It was a work in 6 Scenes, which this performance, most likely the only known recording in existence, is the last scene. It features the NBC Studio Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Joseph Stulpak and was broadcast on April 24, 1943.
Dudley Buck is mostly forgotten now – aside from his work as an author, including his Dictionary of Musical Terms and Influence of the Organ in History, which was published in New York City in 1882.
American Classical music was looking for its direction in the 1800s – there were several composers, many notable, who were trying to break out of the close association with European tradition. Much of the work is forgotten or seldom performed. Some has been rediscovered and has benefitted from a new lease on life by way of many small labels, releasing out-of-the-way music. But it must be noted there was a lot of activity and a lot yet to rediscover, or at least sample. University libraries and Archives are fairly overflowing with unpublished or forgotten scores – time to take a peek and see what we might be missing.