Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lincoln Portrait

During World War II, well known and respected conductor Andre Kostelanetz embarked on a series of concert programs promoting American music. Among the American composers commissioned to express the “magnificent spirit of our country” were William Schuman, Ferde Grofé, and Aaron Copland. Lincoln Portrait is Copland’s magnificent musical portrait of Abraham Lincoln, originally scored for orchestra in 1943, and transcribed for concert band by Walter Beeler in 1951. The opening simple, transparent, and solemn statements slowly unfold through a series of sequences arriving at the second expressive, and sentimental theme. Following a closing section between solo cornet and French horn, the work immediately transitions tempo (Subito Allegro), where the opening theme, Springfield Mountain, is developed, along with that of Camptown Races. After a lengthy instrumental romp, a slow unwinding of the tempo leads to the introduction of narration and quotes from the Gettysburg Address. The text is interwoven with the melodic material in a series of dramatic, contrasting, melancholy, and often spring-like and simplistic musical episodes, culminating in the final words of Lincoln’s historic address. The work is one of the earliest written for large ensemble and narrator. (Source: James Robert O’Dell)

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