Sunday, July 5, 2009

Aaron Copland: "A Lincoln Portrait"


A masterpiece of modern times, Lincoln Portrait was composed in 1942 by the American composer, Aaron Copland (1900-1990). It's well known for its genuine use of narrated text interacting with the orchestra, as well as its uplifting patriotic tone. The text was written by Copland himself, using quotations from Abraham Lincoln's writings and recorded speeches. Some eloquent voices have so far recited the work, including actors Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. The above clip, narrated by actress, Katharine Hepburn, begins a few minutes into the piece, after a most imaginative orchestral introduction.

The composition ends in a crescendo to Lincoln's timeless words, "...the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

(*) Update! Since the publication of this note, the video featured in this post has been removed. Please don't be disappointed; find another link on YouTube, or even better, purchase a CD of the work. Just a few days ago, on July 2nd, 2010, I heard another wonderful version played on KUSC (91.5 FM), the classical music station of Los Angeles, also streaming on KUSC.org. It was narrated by James Earl Jones, with Seatlte Symphony, conducted by Gerard Schwarz. In this particular case, the ethnic background of the narrator made the impact of the composition even more profound. (The veteran actor is of African American descent.)

Happy 4th of July 2010!

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