Lincoln Portrait (also known as A Lincoln Portrait) is a classical orchestral work written by the American composer Aaron Copland. The work involves a full orchestra, with particular emphasis on the brass section at climactic moments. The work is narrated with the reading of excerpts of Abraham Lincoln's great documents, including the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln Portrait was written by Copland as part of the World War II patriotic war effort in 1942.
A 23 second sample of Lincoln Portrait demonstrating the narration of Lincoln's documents along with the prominence of brass instruments for dramatic emphasis.
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Copland was asked to write a musical portrait of an "eminent American" by the conductor Andre Kostelanetz. Originally, Copland had wanted to portray Walt Whitman, but it was decided[who?] that a political figure was needed: "From this moment, Lincoln seemed inevitable." Copland used material from speeches and letters of Lincoln and quoted original folk songs of the period, including "Camptown Races" and "Springfield Mountain". The latter quote is probably a reference to Lincoln's association with Springfield, Illinois, although there are no mountains in Springfield, and the ballad was instead written about Wilbraham, Massachusetts, which was formerly named Springfield Mountain.
Copland finished Lincoln Portrait in April 1942.
- 2 flutes (doubling 2 piccolos)
- 2 oboes
- English horn (optional)
- 2 clarinets in B-flat
- bass clarinet
- 2 bassoons
- contrabassoon (optional)
- 4 horns
- 3 trumpets in B-flat (two required; one optional)
- 3 trombones
- snare drum
- bass drum
- sleigh bells
- celesta (optional)
Note that the English horn, the bass clarinet, the contrabassoon, the 3rd trumpet, and the celesta were deemed not essential for performance[clarification needed] by the composer and may be omitted from the performance ensemble as necessary.
Famous narrators of Lincoln Portrait have included:
- Neil Armstrong, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, conducted by Erich Kunzel, both times at Riverbend Music Center (1984 and 2009)
- Marian Anderson, Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa and Aaron Copland, both times at Saratoga Springs (1966 and 1977)
- Alec Baldwin, Philadelphia Orchestra 2009
- Richard Butler (Governor of Tasmania), Sydney Symphony Orchestra
- President Bill Clinton with the Arkansas Symphony, conducted by David Itkin. March 2003; recorded March 2003.
- Aaron Copland, National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. 14 November 1980 - 80th Birthday concert
- Walter Cronkite, U.S. Air Force Symphony Orchestra
- Clifton Davis, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fabio Mechetti, at Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts Florida, USA, 2009
- Richard DeVos, Grand Rapids Symphony, conducted by David Lockington. 2000.
- Melvyn Douglas, Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. Recorded by RCA Victor 7 February 1946.
- Hugh Downs at the age of 91 with the Phoenix Symphony, conducted by Michael Christie, for the Centennial Celebration of the State of Arizona, February 2012
- Julius Erving, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1991
- Frankie Faison, Montclair State University Orchestra, Spring 2000
- Henry Fonda, London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Aaron Copland, at Walthamstow London, 1968
- Danny Glover, Appleton West High School Wind Ensemble, Fox Cities PAC, December 2002
- The Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, Boston Symphony Orchestra, July 2009
- Vice President Al Gore, New York Philharmonic
- Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire, Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Adam Stern
- Tom Hanks, U.S. Armed Forces Symphony, at the We Are One celebration, 18 January 2009
- Katharine Hepburn, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel (1988 Grammy Award nominee)
- Charlton Heston, Utah Symphony Orchestra
- Samuel L. Jackson, Orchestra of St. Luke's conducted by James Levine
- James Earl Jones has performed the piece several times, including with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration in February 2009, as well as with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (David Itkin, conductor), February 1999.
- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Symphony by the Sea, at the Newburyport Yankee Homecoming, 29 July 2006
- Ambassador Douglas W. Kmiec, United States Ambassador to Malta, July 4, 2010 Celebration of our "common humanity" and "self evident truth," Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta, Malta.
- George McGovern, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, October 2012 in his last public appearance before his death
- Walter Mondale, Minnesota Orchestra
- Robert A. Muh, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, conducted by Keith Lockhart, 4 June 2009
- Paul Newman, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
- President Barack Obama, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- Gregory Peck, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
- Vincent Price, Yale Symphony Orchestra, Leif Bjaland conductor
- Esther Rolle
- Carl Sandburg, New York Philharmonic, conducted by Andre Kostelanetz, 1959. Sandburg's narration won a Grammy Award in 1960.
- Norman Schwarzkopf, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
- Willie Stargell
- Adlai Stevenson, Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy (and recorded by Columbia Records)
- James Taylor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by John Williams
- Margaret Thatcher, London Symphony Orchestra
- Sergeant Major Michael R. Dudley, with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Memorial Day, 2000, and The United States Army Band (Pershing's Own) Washington,DC, April 16, 2004
- Gore Vidal, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, at Hollywood Bowl, 2 August 2007
- William Warfield, several orchestras and conductors. Warfield's narration won a Grammy Award in 1984.
- L. Douglas Wilder, with the Virginia Commonwealth University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Dr. Terry Austin
- Frank J. Williams, Rhode Island Philharmonic, February 2009
The composition was lampooned by Peter Schickele ("P. D. Q. Bach") in his piece Bach Portrait on the album 1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults. Another parody featuring quotes from Dan Quayle appeared on The Dr. Demento Show in the early 1990s.
Nine minutes of the composition, without narration (from a late 1960s recording by the London Symphony Orchestra), plays during the climactic one-on-one sequence between Jake and Jesus Shuttlesworth (played by Denzel Washington and Ray Allen) in the 1998 Spike Lee film, He Got Game. In the film, Jesus Shuttlesworth is a student at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.
- "Lincoln Portrait, Boosey & Hawkes catalogue". Boosey.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- Pollack, Howard (2000). Aaron Copland: the life and work of an uncommon man. University of Illinois Press. p. 357.
- "The Philadelphia Orchestra". Philorch.org. 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "'LINCOLN PORTRAIT'; Other Voices". The New York Times. August 8, 1993.
- "The Field: Isn't This a Time: Live-Blogging Sunday's Inaugural Concert". Narcosphere.narconews.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "COPLAND, GOULD: Heston [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- May 2001 MusicWeb(UK)". Musicweb-international.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "Portraits Of Freedom: Music of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris: Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, James Earl Jones, Seattle Chora". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "Edward M. Kennedy". Tedkennedy.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "George McGovern no longer responsive". UPI. October 17, 2012.
- "Paul Newman Narrates 'Lincoln Portrait'". NPR. 2005-08-09. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- For Immediate Release:[dead link]
- N. Paglinauan. "Performance Today - 'A Lincoln Portrait'". NPR. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- Ross, Alex (February 16, 1993). "Classical Music in Review". The New York Times.
- By Channing GrayJournal Arts Writer (2009-03-01). "Warmth and soul in R.I. Philharmonic’s ‘history lesson’ | Music | projo.com | The Providence Journal". projo.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- NPR interview and broadcast of Lincoln Portrait—contains the original text for the narration.
- CarlSandburg.net: A Research Website for Sandburg Studies
- Video - Aaron Copland - Lincoln Portrait (12:28).