Douglas Major delivered a smashing all-American organ recital yesterday morning in Washington Cathedral, winning himself two ovations along the way.
The first came after his sensational playing of Dudley Buck's Variations on "The Star-Spangled Banner." It does not matter in the least that this is a drippy piece. After Buck's fiery pedal variation, followed by a lovely quiet variant that goes from G-flat Major to B-flat Minor, and than a fugal section to boot, Major's brilliant handling of the whole thing deserved the ovation. The concert began with Ronald Arnatt's dazzling fanfare and included a charming allegretto by Horatio Parker, Leo Sowerby's towering "Requiescat in Pace" and Richard Dirksen's variations on "Urbs Beata." Throughout the brief program, which drew a far larger audience than the cathedral staff had expected, the playing was marked by both elegance and excitement.
The latter element reached spectacular heights when Major turned loose the full resources of the organ on "The Stars and Stripes Forever," complete with piccolo, trombones and trumpets. This won Major his second and more prolonged ovation. Had the recital lasted twice as long, no one would have had the slightest objection.